A bomb that may have been hidden in a briefcase killed at least 11 people and injured 47 outside New Delhi’s High Court, the worst attack in India’s capital in three years.
Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told parliament it was too early to identify those who carried out the bombing. Intelligence agencies had warned Delhi police in July of a risk of a terrorist attack “emanating from certain groups,” he said. Authorities have received a claim of responsibility from the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami militant group, the Press Trust of India reported.
“I appeal to the house and the people of the country that we must remain resolute and united,” Chidambaram told lawmakers. “We should never be intimidated by terrorist groups, we are determined to track down the perpetrators of this horrific crime and bring them to justice.”
Today’s attack was the worst in India since July, when 25 people were killed in the financial capital of Mumbai as three bombs ripped through the city during the evening rush hour. At the location of the blast in Delhi today, ambulances evacuated the wounded and the area was sealed off by armed police.
“It was a devastating scene,” said Mayank Misra, 27, a lawyer at the court. “I saw bodies, people with broken arms and legs and flesh on the floor.”
The U.S. condemned the bombing “in the strongest terms” and extended its deepest condolences, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. The U.S. “continues to monitor the situation, including the safety and security of our citizens, and stands ready to offer any and all assistance.”
The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, or HuJI, is an Islamic militant group originally from Pakistan that Indian officials say used Bangladesh as a base for attacks in India, notably in 2007 and 2008, according to the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management. The Indian and U.S. governments have declared it a terrorist organization.
Delhi was put on high alert as Chidambaram said investigations had begun into who planted the high-intensity bomb that was most likely concealed in a briefcase. A small device detonated in the court’s car park in May, with no injuries. Police said at the time the blast was deliberate, although no suspects were arrested and no motive for the attack was given.
“This is a cowardly act of a terrorist nature,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in televised comments from Bangladesh, where he is on a two-day visit. “This is a long war in which all political parties, all the people of India stand united so the scourge of terrorism is crushed.”
The Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index had advanced 1.2 percent by the 3:30 p.m. close as overseas investors bought shares amid speculation the central bank may halt its record series of interest-rate increases.
Shyam Sharma, a 45-year-old lawyer at the Delhi court, criticized Delhi’s police for failing to impose tougher security following the earlier incident. He said the police had failed to carry out checks on people coming into the court as they lined up for entry passes at the main gate.
“This is a lapse of Delhi Police security,” Sharma said in an interview outside the court as paramedics collected the injured. “It could happen again tomorrow.”
Arun Jaitley, a leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, urged parties to unite to fight terrorism as he expressed concern over India’s inability to prevent bomb attacks. “Have we become so vulnerable that terrorist groups can almost strike at will?” he said in the upper house of parliament.
The explosion at about 10:15 a.m. is the deadliest in New Delhi since five bombs struck the city in September 2008, killing 26 people and injuring 133. Indian Mujahideen, a group believed to recruit members within India, said it was behind the blasts.
Indian Mujahideen is an Islamic militant group that emerged in 2008 to also claim responsibility for bomb attacks in the cities of Jaipur and Ahmedabad. While the group may get support from Pakistan, it is an Indian network comprising men who may have been radicalized by anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state in 2002, according to a government-backed think-tank in New Delhi, the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses.
July’s bombings in Mumbai were the worst terrorist attack in the country since 10 gunmen laid siege to the city over three days in November 2008, killing 166 people. India blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group for the earlier raid and broke off ties with its neighbor. Peace talks resumed earlier this year.
In June, federal investigators charged five Hindu activists for their involvement in the 2007 bombing of a Pakistan-bound train service that killed 68 people, an attack previously blamed on Muslim extremists.