U.P. security agencies, bomb experts clueless about nature of explosive device

Notwithstanding the reported involvement of banned terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) in the Varanasi bomb blast, and the name of a medico, Shahnawaz, surfacing as the probable mastermind, the Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday said that no breakthrough had been made so far.

Tuesday's powerful explosion at the Shitla Ghat on the banks of the Ganga during the aarti ceremony killed a child and injured 38 people.

ADG (Law and Order) Brij Lal admitted here that the blast was a terrorist attack. “Although the forensic experts, Special Task Force and the Anti-Terrorism Squad have been pressed into service, as of now no headway has been made in the case,” Mr. Lal said, adding that investigations were under way.

The State's security agencies and bomb experts seemed to be groping in the dark about the nature of the explosive device, and about whether a bomb had indeed been planted.

“No circuit, battery, remote device, shrapnel, or pellets have been found by the investigating agencies at the blast site,” Mr. Lal told journalists, adding that the remnants collected from the site had been sent for chemical analysis.

He said the injuries to people were caused by chips from stones that were ripped apart, not from shrapnels.

He denied that a live bomb had been recovered from near the blast site on Tuesday.

Email traced

Asked about the email in which the IM reportedly claimed responsibility for the blast, Mr. Lal said it was intercepted by the ATS. The mail was traced to the wifi system of one Mithilesh Thakkar, who resides in Navi Mumbai. Mr. Thakkar works as a branch manager in Reliance and has an unsecured Airtel broadband connection without a password, which made access easy.

Of the 38 people injured in the blast, five are foreign nationals — three Italians, a German, and a South Korean. While 21 of the injured have been admitted to the Sir Sunderlal Hospital in Banaras Hindu University, 12 are at the Shiv Prasad Gupta Hospital in Kabir Chaura in Varanasi.

The others have been admitted to the Heritage Hospital and Singh Medical and Research Centre.

Two-year-old Swastika Sharma died during treatment at Sir Sunderlal Hospital.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, who visited Varanasi late on Tuesday night, inspected the blast site and announced a compensation of Rs.1 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased, Rs.50,000 each for the seriously injured, and Rs.25,000 each for those with minor injuries.

A terrorist act: Left

Sandeep Dikshit writes from New Delhi:

The Left parties on Wednesday condemned the Varanasi blast, with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) terming it a “terrorist act.”

In a statement, the CPI (M) Polit Bureau said the claim made by the “so-called” Indian Mujahideen showed that extremist elements were still attempting to disturb the country's social fabric and communal amity through such “senseless acts of violence.”

The party called on all secular forces to isolate the communal forces that had become the breeding grounds for extremist violence. It was “essential to firmly combat [extremist] groups [both Hindu and Muslim] indulging in terrorism.”

The Communist Party of India (CPI) said the blast was “a senseless, shameful act which was intended to attack secularism and create hatred among people.”

Making the same point as the CPI (M) about the involvement of extremists belonging to both communities in previous bomb blasts, it wanted them to be “dealt with determination” and asked the people to be vigilant against terrorist and communal activities.

The party also demanded ex gratia payment to those affected by the blast.

The U.S. and Germany have condemned the blasts.

U.S. Ambassador Timothy Roemer said he was saddened by the blast in a city well known for tolerance and acceptance of religious diversity.

Deputy Head of the German Embassy Christian-Matthias Schlaga met Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and expressed his country's condolences and condemned the act.

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