New Delhi: Terror struck Uttar Pradesh on Friday, when militants triggered near-simultaneous blasts in court premises in three cities across the state, killing at least 13 and injuring over 59 others.
Six bombs — three in Varansi, two in Faizabad and one in Lucknow — went off within a span of 15 minutes in the crowded court complexes between 1310 hours and 1325 hours. Some of bombs are believed to have been planted on cycles.
A little-known outfit, called Indian Mujahideen, has claimed responsibility. UN intelligence agencies said senior UP police officials have received an email in which the outfit has owned up to the attacks.
The first blast occurred outside a court in Faizabad. The second blast hit outside a civil court in Lucknow. And then two simultaneous blasts occurred within the district court campus in Varanasi.
The UP Government has termed these blasts as a planned terror attack. Police later recovered two live bombs from the blast sites in Faizabad and Lucknow. National Security Guards have been dispatched to the blast site to carry out investigations.
UP DGP Vikram Singh said the attacks were pre-planned. "The bombs used in the blasts were not crude, it was all pre-planned. The explosives were not plastic. Pellets were used in the blasts," he said.
The Additional DGP (law and order) of UP police, Brij Lal, said there was a real possibility of these being terror attacks. He, however, put the death toll at three. "Two of them were killed in Faizabad while one died in Varanasi. Nobody was killed in Lucknow," he said.
In Varanasi, the bomb exploded at the court premises during the busy court hour. Over 2,000 people were present in the court premises when the bomb went off. Early reports said there could be heavy casualties as it occurred in a crowded spot.
The blast took place in the counter of a lawyer, Ajay Singh. The court premises were sealed after the attack. Unconfirmed reports, however, two bombs went off simultaneously in Varanasi. The blast is believed to have caused a large number of injuries.
There was not much security in the Varanasi court on Friday as the security personnel had been shifted to the ghats for Kartik Purnima. The blast threw the security machinery into a tizzy.
A near-stampede broke out in and around the blast spots with many injured bleeding profusely running for their life while several other wounded lay on the floor crying for help.
Varanasi SSP SB Shirodkar said nine people were killed and 45 others injured, some of them seriously, when two bombs planted on cylcles went off in quick succession.
Four of the dead in Varanasi were identified as Bodh Raj Verma (advocate), Yagya Narain Singh, Moolchand Singh and a 11-year-old boy Sanjeev Kumar.
He said the injured have been admitted to four hospitals including Benares Hindu University Hospital.
Eyewitness Pramod Kumar Srivastava, a lawyer, said two people died on the spot in the blasts. Another eyewitness said the police didn't reach the site of attack until one hour after the blast. No bomb disposal squad has reached the spot till one hour after the attack.
Priyatosh Tripathi of the bomb disposal squad in Varanasi said the two imporvised explosive devices were planted on two new bicycles and placed in the busy area of the court complex.
In Faizabad, adjoining to the holy town of Ayodhya, five people were confirmed dead and 25 others were injured when two bombs packed in bags exploded in two lawyers' chambers.
Four of the dead were identified as Radhikaprasad Mishra (lawyer), his assistant Babu Ram, Om Prakash Pandey (stamp vendor) and Kesari Prasad (client), officials said.
Faizabad police commissioner confirmed to CNN-IBN that five people were killed in the Faizabad blast. The IG of UP Police for Lucknow Zone, AK Jain, described the blasts in Faizabad and Varanasi as a 'powerful'.
They said the first explosion was minor in nature while the second claimed causalities ripping through the two advocate chambers.
Three of the seriously injured were taken to King George Medical College Hospital in Lucknow.
"We are looking into all the aspects. The Lucknow blast is said to be a minor one. In Varanasi, a search has been launched in the court premises. Senior police officials have rushed to the spot," he said.
Jain said search is on for more bombs in these areas. "Rescue work is on. We are looking into all aspects," he said.
One person was injured in the Lucknow blast. This bomb was planted in a cycle. A live bomb with a timer device attached to it was later found and defused in the same spot.
The UP police refused to comment on the identity of the attackers immediately. They, however, said some terror modules could be behind the attacks.
The police tried to draw parallel of the blasts with the ones that hit Malegaon a few months back. The police said a bicycle found at the blast site in Faizabad is being examined. Police said further investigation is going to be based on chemical analysis test of various articles recovered from the blast sites.
UP Chief Minister Mayawati has announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakhs to the kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 to the injured.
Intelligence sources in Delhi said the blasts are somewhere linked to the arrest of three Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, who had been apprehended in Lucknow on November 16 for allegedly plotting to target Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
In their confession – recorded on camera – one of the arrested men had told the STF officials that they had plans to abduct Rahul to secure the release of 42 dreaded terrorists currently lodged in various Indian jails. Though these are not official confessions, they sent a chilling reminder of the 1999 Kandahar hijack.
"We will look into any links with other incidents. It's too early to say whether it is related to the arrest of the terrorists in Lucknow," UP DGP Vikram Singh said.<p class='pB5'><img src='http://static.ibnlive.com/pix/sitepix/11_2007/lucknow3.jpg' border='0'</p><BR> <p class='pB5'><img src='http://static.ibnlive.com/pix/sitepix/11_2007/lucknow2.jpg' border='0'</p><BR> <p class='pB5'><img src='http://static.ibnlive.com/pix/sitepix/11_2007/lucknow4.jpg' border='0'</p><BR>