Police officers trawled slums and criminal hideouts in India’s capital on Sunday rounding up suspects, after serial bombings in the city a day earlier killed at least 20 people and wounded nearly 100.
Police said they were pursuing several leads, including talking to an 11-year-old boy who said he had seen two men drop off a large plastic bag at one of the blast sites.
At hospitals, though, relatives of victims accused police of failing to protect them. ”Down with the police,” they shouted, some with tears in their eyes. ”We don’t trust you any more”.
”Helpless?” read the banner headline of the Sunday Times newspaper, expressing growing frustration at the inability of authorities to prevent a string of bomb attacks in recent months.
Some women prayed at a small temple inside one of the hospitals. Others cried. Some rushed about frantically looking for their missing relatives.
”He is my brother Ramesh, please help me trace him,” said Sarabjit Singh, pointing to a photograph.
At least five bombs exploded in quick succession in crowded markets and streets in the heart of New Delhi on Saturday night.
A group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen (IM) sent an email to television stations shortly after the first explosion saying it was responsible.
The group, believed to be an offshoot of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India, has sent similar emails before or after several major attacks in India in recent months.
”Eye for an eye. The dust will never settle down,” the Hindustan Times quoted the email as saying.
”Our intense, accurate and successive attacks … will continue to punish you even before your earlier wounds have healed,” it said, referring to bomb attacks in Indian cities in May and July that together killed more than 120.
Throughout Saturday night, hundreds of people, mostly residents of the New Delhi neighbourhoods hit by bombs, were questioned before being allowed to go.
”We have detained 10-12 people for further questioning,” said Ranjan Bhagat of Delhi Police, adding that no formal arrests had been made.
Police said they were studying footage from close-circuit television cameras at two of the markets hit by bombs.
”We need to see if there is anything in it,” said HGS Dhaliwal, a deputy police commissioner. ”Hope we find something.”
The National Counterterrorism Centre in Washington says 3 674 people had been killed in militant attacks in India between January 2004 and March 2007, a death toll second only to that in Iraq.
Email traced to Mumbai
The investigation net widened to the financial capital of Mumbai after it was found the email had originated from there.
”We have located the IP address to a company in Chembur,” said an anti-terrorism squad official, referring to a Mumbai suburb. ”It looks like a wi-fi connection was hacked into.”
Mumbai, which has seen some of India’s worst attacks, was also linked to coordinated bombings in the western city of Ahmedabad in July after another email was traced to the city.
The Indian Mujahideen has earlier claimed to be avenging the killing of about 2 000 people, mostly Muslims, in a 2002 riot in the western state of Gujarat.
Minutes after one of the blasts in central Delhi, police detained an 11-year-old balloon seller who claimed to have seen two men drop a black plastic into a dustbin which had exploded.
”They were tall men, wearing black clothes,” the boy told reporters before being whisked away by police.
Investigations into bomb attacks in India over the years have followed a familiar pattern. Bombs go off, police round up suspects, usually Muslims, and then the trail goes cold.
Last week, the chief cleric of Delhi’s biggest mosque, Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to complain that innocent Muslims were being arrested ”in the name of terrorist activities”.
”It should be apparent by now, first, that we have only identified the tip of the Jihadi iceberg,” B Raman, a former head of India’s spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, wrote in the Hindustan Times.
”The iceberg itself remains unexposed. Second, we have not yet been able to identify the command and control of the IM.” – Reuters