Foreign extremists blamed for bomb attacks on Hyderabad

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The Independent Online

Officials in India were last night investigating whether foreign Islamic extremists were behind the bomb attacks that killed at least 42 people in Hyderabad as police discovered and defused another 19 devices in the city.

While police declined to say who they believed were behind the attacks, which also injured a further 80 people, the chief minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, clearly laid the blame at the feet of extremists from two of India's neighbours. "Available information points to the involvement of terrorist organisations based in Bangladesh and Pakistan," he said.

Reports quoting anonymous intelligence sources claimed that the most likely perpetrator was the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami organisation, although Mr Reddy said: "It is not possible to divulge all this information."

Saturday night's attacks, which targeted a restaurant and an amusement park using bombs packed with metal pellets, were the latest in a series of bombings over the past year. Almost all of them have been blamed on Islamic extremists with foreign connections, even when the attacks targeted Muslims.

Other recent bombings in India have been blamed on Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, one of many Islamic groups fighting to force India from the disputed Kashmir region.

Hyderabad, a city that has become a centre for the IT industry and is home to many Western companies, has a history of Hindu-Muslim violence.

Authorities blamed Harkat-ul for the bombing of a Hyderabad mosque in May that killed 11 people, although little evidence has been revealed. Many Muslims say Hindu extremists were to blame.

"The blasts were not done by local people," G R Vidya Dhar, a taxi driver, told Reuters. "This is definitely being done from outside."

Police said that following the blasts they had found 19 other devices. The bombs had been placed at bus stops, close to cinemas halls, road junctions and pedestrian bridges.

Experts said the three explosions appeared to be designed to cause the maximum possible damage. "The metal pellets in the bombs worked as deadly missiles, killing more people," Dr K Shastry, a senior physician at one of several hospitals that received the dead and wounded, said. Relatives of the victims cried as they waited to identify the bodies. "They had come to shop and stopped for a bite. Now they are all gone," said Bhaskar, 41, a family friend of two teenage girls and a young woman who died at the food centre.

The Indian Home minister, Shivraj Patil, said the country was helpless in the face of terrorist attacks. "We have to take timely action on the basis of information received. But our country is so big that even if we have the information that something is planned we do not know where or when," he said.

A ministry spokesman said 22 people were being questioned by the police.

Police also said one man had been detained near Hyderabad on suspicion of selling bicycle ball-bearings that were used as pellets in the bombs. "The investigation is progressing in the right direction," Balwinder Singh, the Hyderabad police commissioner, said.

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