Outrage during Friday prayers; four die in police firing
HYDERABAD: A wave of terror shook the State capital, when a powerful blast ripped through a heavy congregation at the historic Mecca Masjid near Charminar on Friday killing 10 people and leaving over 50 injured.
Four others were killed in police firing as mobs clashed with the police. Sporadic incidents of arson and attacks continued in many areas till late in the night.
It was just another Friday and people as well as the police were relaxed. Over 10,000 people were offering prayers at the 400-year-old Mecca Masjid at 1.15 p.m. when the bomb went off.
The device, in which RDX was used, was triggered with a cellular phone and the blast sent shockwaves throughout the city. Providentially, two more Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were found and defused by the police. Had these been detonated, destruction would have been colossal, as they were strategically placed near a spot where ablutions are performed. The police are pinning their hopes on the SIM card recovered from a mobile phone attached to an IED.
The bomb went off underneath a thick marble platform (taqt) and the 400-year-old stone sheet took the full impact of the blast. It took some moments for those offering prayers to realise that the deafening noise they heard was a bomb blast.
Soon ambulances began sorties ferrying the injured and the dead to hospitals. As angry youth rushed out of the mosque, sporadic violence erupted and mobs began pelting stones and damaging property.
The police in riot gear were engaged in pitched battles in the labyrinthine lanes and bylanes of the old city. The police fired shots in the air, lobbed teargas shells to disperse the crowds. Within the mosque, a crowd initially prevented the police from entering. Police then used water cannon to pave the way for the bomb disposal squad, which defused the other bombs.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy cut short his trip in Delhi and rushed to Hyderabad. As news of the blast spread, tension mounted all over the city and business establishments downed the shutters. With mobs targeting the city buses, the authorities suspended all services in the south of the city.
The method of detonating the IED using a mobile phone is similar to many blasts in Kashmir engineered by the Lashkar and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, police sources said.
Two MIM legislators and the City Congress president who rushed to the mosque were roughed up. Home Minister K. Jana Reddy and Ministers Mohd. Ali Shabbir and Mukesh Goud were gheraoed and not allowed into the mosque for quite some time.
State police chief M.A. Basith, who visited the mosque, described the marble platform as a God-sent `barrier' as it saved many lives.
"There was this deafening sound at 1.15 p.m. and within minutes trouble erupted. A shop and a petrol bunk were targeted by rampaging mobs," Mohd. Ismail, who was in front of the mosque, recalled. Ismail said he ran towards the Charminar police station, hardly a stone's throw away.
As heavy contingents of para-miliatary and city police moved in, the priority was to ensure that the Dhana Laxmi temple abutting Charminar was not vandalised. Fortunately, the anger against the blast did not take a communal turn and that probably saved the day for Hyderabad.