More than 75 injured as explosion rips through reception counter of court; email claims Harkat role
Less than four months after a mysterious bomb went off in the parking lot, a powerful blast ripped through the reception counter of the Delhi High Court complex in the heart of the capital on Wednesday, leaving at least 11 people dead and more than 75 injured.
Even as a red alert was sounded in the city, an email sent to various media organisations claimed responsibility for the blast on behalf of the ‘Harkat-ul-Jihadi.'
The claim, sent from firstname.lastname@example.org, threatened similar blasts at the Supreme Court and other major High Courts if the Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru's death sentence was not “repealed.” (sic).
While 57 of the injured have been admitted to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, others have been referred to the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, the Apollo Hospital, the Safdarjung Hospital, the Moolchand Hospital and the JPNA Trauma Centre of the AIIMS. The identity of all the deceased, including a 55-year-old woman and three elderly men, has been established.
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit announced that Rs. 4 lakh in compensation would be paid to the families of the deceased, Rs. 2 lakh to those who suffered permanent incapacitation, Rs. 1 lakh to those with serious injury, and Rs. 10,000 for those who suffered minor injury.
A preliminary analysis of the samples collected from the spot has suggested that a mixture of some plastic explosive, such as PETN, and ammonium nitrate had been used to configure the bomb kept in a briefcase.
“However, the exact composition will be established through proper laboratory tests,” said a senior officer.
It all happened at 10.14 a.m. when scores of litigants had queued up at the reception desk counters, adjacent to Gate No. 5, to collect entry passes. The deafening explosion created a two-foot crater on the cemented platform, blew off the tin roof and sent splinters flying in all directions. All those standing in a five-metre radius were knocked off their feet.
According to eyewitnesses, the bomb was probably planted in the briefcase placed near a stone bench on the right side of the reception desk. Based on the descriptions provided by two eyewitnesses, the police prepared two sketches of the suspects. A witness claimed that he saw one of the suspects, wearing kurta-pyjama, fleeing towards Purana Qila and he tried to chase him, but the man escaped.
Rahul Gupta, a visibly shaken public interest litigation litigant, said: “I was about to collect my pass when I heard a loud explosion that shook the earth. There was smoke all around. I saw people lying on the ground, some piled up on each other. They were all covered in blood, their clothes torn into shreds. Pieces of clothes were hanging from a tree over the reception desk. Some had lost their limbs. I escaped with splinter injuries in the right hand.”
As many as 22 police control room vans reached the spot and swiftly removed the injured to hospitals with the help of lawyers and volunteers. The area was cordoned off and the site covered with a plastic sheet to protect the evidence from rain.
Officers of the National Investigation Agency and the Delhi Police, personnel of the National Disaster Response Force and bomb experts of the National Security Guard rushed to the site to gather evidence.
The police found that no closed-circuit television cameras had been installed at any of the entry gates.
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram visited the site around 1 p.m. Later in the evening, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital to enquire about the injured.
A case has been registered by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. While efforts are on to identify those behind the attack, the blast is being perceived as a sequel to an ammonium nitrate-fuelled, low-intensity explosion which occurred outside Gate No.7 of the High Court on May 25. No one was injured in that incident. The case remains unsolved.
Helpline numbers: Safdarjung Hospital - 011-26707444, RML Hospital - 011-23744721.