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India Placed on Heightened Security Alert

  • Anjana Pasricha

People rescue an injured person after a bomb blast in Hyderabad, India, Feb. 21, 2013.

People rescue an injured person after a bomb blast in Hyderabad, India, Feb. 21, 2013.

In India, the death toll in the twin blasts that devastated the southern city of Hyderabad has risen to 16, and more than 100 people have been wounded. The entire country has been placed on a heightened security alert, as questions have been raised about the government’s failure to respond to warnings of a possible attack.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said Friday preliminary investigations show that the two blasts that devastated Hyderabad were caused by improvised explosive devises planted on bicycles.

The first explosion occurred near a bus stand and the second close to a movie theater three minutes later Thursday evening in the bustling commercial district of Dilsukhnagar.

At least three of the victims were students who had come to attend classes at the dozens of coaching institutes located here. Many of those killed and injured were daily wage workers. The area is also home to shops, theaters, restaurants and a vegetable and fruit market.

After a visit to the city Friday morning, Minister Shinde told parliament that “the situation is under control.”

“The government is committed to combat such cowardly terror attacks and it shall make all possible efforts to apprehend the perpetrators and masterminds behind the blasts and ensure they are punished as per the law,” said Shinde.

Federal and state investigators scoured Hyderabad to get clues. The city is a thriving information technology hub, home to companies such as Google and Microsoft.

It also has a sizeable Muslim community.

Opposition parties attacked the government in parliament Friday for ignoring warnings of a possible terror strike.

Home Minister Shinde has said the government had such warnings, but did not have specific information on targets.

“General alert was given for last two or three days, we were giving general alert to whole of country," he sid. "If there was threat perception earlier, it will come in the investigation.”

The leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, Sushma Swaraj, said political parties are united in fighting terror.

But she asked why the government had failed to respond to intelligence inputs warning about a possible attack.

The explosions in Hyderabad came as the country was on security alert following the recent hanging of a Kashmiri man, Afzal Guru, for his involvement in a militant attack on parliament in 2001. There is deep anger over his execution in Indian Kashmir, where many believe he did not get a fair trial.

In 2011, authorities had said that a bomb blast that killed 17 people outside the High Court in New Delhi was the handiwork of militants who wanted Guru’s death sentence commuted.

Indian cities have been the target of terror strikes many times in the past. The worst ever attack killed 160 people in Mumbai in 2008, prompting the federal government to revamp internal security. But analysts have criticized the government for not doing enough.