After a lull of almost two years, terror has struck India again. Many were anxious about the possibility of an incident following the hanging of Afzal Guru earlier this month. On Thursday, the worries were shown to be well founded when two bombs went off in Dilsukhnagar, a district in the south Indian city of Hyderabad. The blast claimed at least 11 lives and injured at least 57.
According to Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, the bombs were placed on two bicycles positioned about 150 meters apart, and they exploded about two minutes apart. Briefing the media, Shinde said the first blast claimed eight lives and the second claimed at least three. The death toll is expected to rise. He added that the government had intelligence about a potential attack, but it was not specific about where the blasts would take place.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts. Still, suspicions center on the Indian Mujahideen terrorist group. According to The Telegraph, an Indian newspaper, the tactic of rigging bombs on bicycles and the choice of locations pointed to the Indian Mujahideen, an amorphous group also suspected to have carried out the May 2008 attack in Jaipur, where bombs were also strapped to bicycles.
Many believe the attack was in retaliation to the recent hanging of Afzal Guru, as some militant groups based in India and Pakistan have vowed to avenge his death.
An anonymous intelligence official told The Telegraph, “Our assessment showed there was a possibility of retaliation (for Afzal’s hanging) as many militant groups, including the Indian Mujahideen, had threatened to hit back”.
However, A.S. Dulat, the former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of India’s external intelligence agency said that it is premature to make assumptions about who is responsible for the attacks. The recent blasts have revived local fears of terrorism, which seemed to have faded from the Indian popular consciousness.
The last major attack on Indian soil took place in New Delhi last September when a bomb blast outside the Delhi High Court claimed 10 lives and wounded at least 45. Security in Delhi—less accustomed to terror attacks—was subsequently tightened to unusually high levels in many places.
For the mixed Hindu-Muslim city of Hyderabad, however, the threat of terror is not new. According to the BBC, there have been at least nine attacks on the city since 1992, including twin explosions in 2007 that killed more than 40 people.
The Mecca Masjid attack in 2007 was perpetrated by Hindu terror groups. Hindu-Muslim tensions are ongoing in this historic city, where violence broke out last year over the expansion of a Hindu temple located near the Charminar, a popular Muslim mosque and monument in the city’s old town.
While it is unclear who perpetrated the latest attacks in Hyderabad, the hanging of Afzal Guru has angered India’s Muslim population.
Depending on what comes to light, this event could polarize voters in the upcoming state and general elections, to be held this year and next.