Describing the serial blasts in Mumbai as a well "coordinated attack by terrorists", Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday appealed to the people to remain calm and maintain peace.
Three blasts in India’s financial capital ripped through crowded places at 6.45 p.m. and occurred within minutes of each other, the Home Minister said after presiding over an emergency meeting of top officials of the ministry. "We infer this was a coordinated attack by terrorists," he told reporters outside North Block. He feared that the death toll in the blasts could go up.
He said the National Security Guard (NSG) hub in Mumbai, set up in the wake of 26/11 terror attack in the city in 2008, has been put on standby. He said the elite force's 'post-blast' team has also been sent to Mumbai.
The Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) team from Delhi and Hyderabad has been sent to Mumbai, he said. Mr. Chidambaram said that a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), led by an IG rank officer, will also leave for Mumbai during the night.
Mr. Chidambaram was directed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to do everything necessary after serial blasts rocked Mumbai and keep him updated.
The Prime Minister, who was monitoring the developments related to the three explosions, spoke to the Home Minister as well as Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, PMO sources said. While speaking to Mr. Chidambaram, Dr. Singh asked him to do the needful and update him.
The North Block office of the Home Ministry was abuzz with hectic activity as soon as the news of serial blasts in Mumbai trickled in just after 7 p.m. Even as Home Secretary R. K. Singh spoke to the Maharashtra Chief Secretary, Secretary (Internal Security) U. K. Bansal monitored the situation, alerting the machinery and ensuring that NIA, NSG and CFSL teams could leave for Mumbai in time.
Mr. Chidambaram held an emergency meeting which was attended by Mr. Singh, Mr. Bansal and other senior officials of the ministry where the situation in Mumbai was reviewed as well as internal security situation in the country was discussed. It was decided to sound high alert in all States, particularly in cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi. The Home Ministry was monitoring the situation on a regular basis and putting to use much of crisis-fighting apparatus and practices, like multi-agency centre, put in force after 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Sources in the intelligence set up were inclined to believe that IEDs, used in the blast, appeared to be handiwork of Indian Mujahideen working closely with Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist outfit. The timing of the serial blast was also significant as it comes barely a fortnight before India and Pakistan engage themselves in yet another round of talks.