A medium intensity briefcase bomb believed to have been filled with ammonium nitrate was remotely triggered by terrorists outside the reception gate of the Delhi High Court on Wednesday morning, killing at least 11 people and injuring 65.
Although the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) claimed responsibility for the attack, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told the parliament that it wasn’t yet possible to confirm the identity of those behind the blast. He said he has entrusted the case to the National Investigation Agency, which has already visited the site to collect forensic samples amid heavy rain. NIA Director General S.C. Sinha announced that a 20-member special team had been appointed to handle the case.
This is the second time in three months that a blast has occurred outside the Delhi High Court. The last blast took place on May 25, but didn’t result in any casualties. The key ingredient in both bombs is believed to have been ammonium nitrate, a substance that the government in July listed under the Explosives Act, banning its open sale, purchase and manufacture.Still, questions are bound to be asked over why security agencies failed to install a CCTV system in the court premises following the first blast.
Several media organizations received an email purportedly from HuJI claiming responsibility for today’s attack. The email attempted to link the incident to the case of Afzal Guru, who is on death row for attacking the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001.
‘Our demand is that Afzal Guru's death sentence should be repealed immediately else we would target major high courts and the Supreme Court of India,’ the email warned. The NIA’s Sinha said the HuJI email was being looked at seriously, and he noted that HuJI may also have been tied to July’s attack in Mumbai.
Union Home Secretary RK Singh said the ‘medium to high intensity’ blast took place between Gate Nos. 4 and 5 near the reception counter where passes are made for litigants, while his colleague U.K. Bansal, Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said the bomb was powerful enough to create a small crater in the ground. National Security Guard Director General Rajen Medhekar confirmed that ammonium nitrate had likely been used in the blast.
Delhi and Mumbai have been the preferred targets of the terrorists. Three years ago, on September 13, 2008, three bomb blasts rocked Delhi, killing 25 people and injuring 150 more. Since then, militants have targeted upscale areas as Connaught Place and Greater Kailash, as well as the congested commercial hub of Karol Bagh.
About two hours after today’s blast, Chidambaram made a statement in the Lok Sabha, appealing to the Parliament and to the people of India to remain united in adversity.
‘The objective of terrorist groups is to strike fear and to destabilise the country. We are clear in our mind that there is no cause that will justify terrorist acts,’ he said. ‘We shall never be intimidated by terrorist groups. We are determined to track down the perpetrators of this horrific crime and bring them to justice.’
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on a two-day visit to Bangladesh, said in Dhaka that this was ‘a cowardly act, we will not succumb.’