Blasts Shock India's Pink City

Tourists appeared to be the targets as seven closely timed explosions hit crowded marketplaces and a temple

The jehadis have struck again, this time in the tourist city of Jaipur, executing seven closely-timed blasts at crowded market places and a temple. The terror attack claimed 60 lives.

The first blast took place at around 7.30 pm at the Manas Chowk Police Station area. The second blast was near the most famous sweet shop in the city, Lakshmi Mishtaan Bhandar, at Johari Bazaar. The third blast took place at Tripolia Bazar where a Hanuman temple was crowded with devotees, while the fourth and fifth blasts were reported at Badi Choupal and Choti Choupal.

Two more bombs are reported to have exploded near the Kotwali area.

The serial blasts follow the pattern of earlier terror strikes at the Sankatmochan temple in Varanasi as well as the serial train blasts in Mumbai and twin explosions in Hyderabad. Intelligence agencies are already pointing fingers at the usual suspect: the Jaish-LeT-Simi nexus, possibly with a Huji (Bangladesh) angle thrown in. The serial blasts, according to an initial assessment by the intelligence agencies, were meticulously planned and professionally executed: a clear indicator of the involvement of ISI-backed jehadi outfits.

"The blasts were carried out in a highly professional manner... I can confirm that this is an act of a well-organised terror outfit," special secretary (internal security) in the Union home ministry, ML Kumawat, told ET soon after the serial explosions. Rajasthan is known to have a significant presence of Simi cadres. The ISI-backed terror outfits may have used this local network to arrange logistical support, without which it is virtually impossible to carry out such a major strike.

The timing of the blasts as well as the chosen sites point at the terrorists' design to ensure maximum casualty.

Not only were the victims an easy target, with the guard in crowded market places likely to have been low considering that Jaipur has seldom seen a major terror strike, but the targeting of a Hanuman temple, that too on Tuesday when devotees offer special prayers, exposes an attempt to disturb communal harmony. This was also the case in Sankatmochan blasts as well as the strike at Ramjanambhoomi complex in Ayodhya, after which the terrorists shifted their attention to holy places of the Muslim community by striking at Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif.

The refusal of any outfit to own up to the blasts hardly comes as a surprise as the terrorist groups, for fear of invoking international condemnation, rarely confess to strikes aimed at innocent civilians.

There was no indication of the possible explosive material in the serial blasts till late on Tuesday night, although the use of a timer device is clear since the explosions happened within a 15-minute timeband. However, the intensity of the blasts indicates the use of nitrate-based salts or RDX. "The team of the NSG Bomb Disposal Squad is reaching Jaipur to study the nature of explosives that may have been used," Mr Kumawat said.

With infiltration continuing both from the J&K border—the recent bids along the border in Sambha are proof—and Bangladesh, the crossing point for cadres of Huji (B), a group closely associated with Jaish, the terror graph in the hinterland only threatens to go up in the coming months. The Jaipur serial blasts are arguably the first major terror strike of the year in the hinterland.

The intelligence agencies have time and again sought stricter security measures at vital installations and crowded or religious places, both a favourite target of the terror outfits. While strikes at vital installations are designed to hit at economic well-being of the country, targeting of crowded places ensures maximum casualty, while attack on religious sites further the terrorists' gameplans to create social unrest by creating communal mistrusts.

Also, given that Jaipur is a popular and much sought-after tourist destination with foreigners, the blasts could have been aimed at hurting India's image as a safe tourist destination.

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