Police in the eastern Indian state of Bihar detained at least two suspects in connection with bomb blasts at a campaign rally of opposition prime minister candidate Narendra Modi yesterday that killed five people.
The explosions, including one at a train station, also injured 71 people, S.K. Bhardwaj, additional director general of Bihar Police, said by phone. One person confessed to planning the attack, CNN-IBN television channel reported today, citing Manu Maharaj, senior superintendent of police in Patna, the capital of the state where the rally took place.
The blasts “were shocking and can rattle any person,” Modi, who pressed ahead with the rally, said in comments posted on his Twitter Inc. account yesterday. “I salute the people of Bihar for their patience and bravery.”
The blasts in Bihar mark the deadliest incident since the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party named Modi as its candidate for prime minister last month. He’s looking to unseat the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has ruled the country of 1.2 billion people since 2004.
The federal government has sent probe teams as it awaits a report from local authorities, Junior Home Minister R.P.N. Singh told reporters in New Delhi yesterday.
Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, is campaigning before polls that must be held by May to elect representatives to the 545-member lower house of parliament. Janata Dal (United), BJP’s former ally that governs Bihar, left the opposition alliance in June over its aversion to Modi’s growing clout in national politics.
The BJP had arranged 14 special trains and several buses to bring party workers from different parts of the country to participate in the rally, CNN-IBN reported, while the Press Trust of India said the blasts occurred after they had reached the city.
“There have been injuries and we are busy making arrangements,” Jayant Kant, the city’s Superintendent of Police, said by phone, declining to answer further questions.
Singh, in comments posted on his Twitter account, appealed for calm and peace after the bomb explosions. Home Secretary Anil Goswami didn’t answer calls to his cell phone.
Two people were injured after nine low-intensity bombs shook the vicinity of the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bodh Gaya in July in Bihar, where Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment. Three live bombs were defused outside the shrine.
In April, 16 people were injured when a device attached to a motorcycle exploded near the BJP office in the southern city of Bangalore.
Modi arouses strong emotions in the nation of 1.2 billion people. To followers, he’s a cult figure who dragged Gujarat from the ashes of the 2002 rioting, wooing businesses and cutting red tape and corruption. To opponents, he’s an autocrat who failed to control the attacks on Muslims by Hindu mobs or show enough remorse over the killings.
Modi has denied any wrongdoing and a Supreme Court-appointed panel investigating one documented incident found no evidence that he took decisions to prevent assistance from reaching those being attacked.
India in August this year arrested Yasin Bhatkal, the co-founder of militant group Indian Mujahedeen that claimed responsibility for deadly bombings across the country. His group claimed it orchestrated a February attack that killed 16 people in Hyderabad and a 2011 bombing at New Delhi’s high court that left 15 people dead.
The Indian Mujahedeen emerged in 2008 as a loose network of Islamic militants. The group was responsible for attacks that killed at least 150 people in 2008 alone, according to the study by the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses.
The group has links with Pakistan, including guerrilla groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to the U.S. State Department. India alleges Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the November 2008 attack in Mumbai.
The South Asian country has also been a target of attacks by Maoist rebels who operate in resource-rich states and say they are fighting for the rights of exploited poor villagers and tribal communities. Senior members of Singh’s ruling Congress party were among the 27 killed in an ambush by the insurgents in May.
India had been targeted at least 11 times by terrorists since November 2008, when the government pledged to improve policing and intelligence gathering after Pakistani gunmen killed 166 people during a three-day siege of Mumbai, the country’s financial center.