Mumbai blasts: 'All groups hostile to India on radar’

5:07 AM |

The Government today said all groups “hostile to India” are on the “radar” in the probe into the terror attack here and did not rule out the possibility of the blasts being an attempt to derail the forthcoming Indo-Pak talks.

After visiting the sites of the three serial blasts in crowded areas here last evening that killed 17 persons, the Union Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, made it clear that it was too early “to point a finger at any one group”. About 131 persons were also injured of whom 23 are seriously injured.

Mr Chidambaram, addressing a 70-minute joint news conference with the Chief Minister, Mr Prithviraj Chavan, also said “there was no intelligence failure” prior to the blasts.

There was no intelligence input either with the Central or the state agencies of an “imminent” attack, he said.

“Intelligence is collected every day, every hour. It (blasts) is not a failure of intelligence agencies...whoever has perpetrated the attacks has worked in a very clandestine manner,” Mr Chidambaram said, reiterating it was a “coordinated terror attack’’.

The Minister said intelligence gathering had successfully “neutralised” a number of planned attacks in the past two-and-a-half years, but declined to give any details.

At the same time, he asserted that Indians lived “in the most troubled neighbourhood in the world” and therefore all cities in India were “vulnerable” to attack.

“Pakistan-Afghanistan is the epicentre of terror...we are living in the most troubled neighbourhood,” he said.

Asked whether the explosions were timed to disrupt the forthcoming Indo-Pak talks, Mr Chidambaram said: “we are not ruling out anything. That angle will also be kept in mind.”

Giving details about the investigations carried out since last night, the Home Minister said ammonium nitrate, an explosive substance, was used in the IEDs triggered by timer devices.

He ruled out the use of remote control to trigger the blasts in Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar areas.

“We are not pointing a finger at this stage,” Mr Chidambaram said, adding there had been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

“All groups hostile to India are on the radar. We are not ruling out anything, we are not ruling in anything. We are looking at everyone,” he said, adding “We have to look at every possible hostile group and find out whether they are behind the blast.”

Mr Chidambaram’s response came to repeated questions whether he suspected the hand of a foreign terror group or right wing groups or the underworld or the Maoists or Indian Mujahideen in the explosions.

The Union Home Ministry had officially stated in its first bulletin last night that the death toll was 21.

“We are not ruling out any angle. We will probe (the involvement of) every terror group...The investigations into the attack will not start on pre-determined assumptions,” he said at another point facing a volley of questions by newsmen after he chaired an emergency meeting to review the situation.

“Whoever perpetrated the attack has worked in a very very clandestine manner. Maybe it’s a very small group, maybe they didn’t communicate with each other,” he said.

“I am confident that ... we will be able to zero in on the group that caused these bomb blasts,” he added.

He also made it clear that India will not be cowed down by the attacks.

“I want to assure everyone both in India and outside, that India will continue to work and grow and prosper,” he said.

The Minister also assured that the blasts were not targeted against any foreigners or tourists visiting India.

“The target is India’s unity, integrity and prosperity. There are elements that are hostile to India and they are behind the blasts that have occurred over the last 10 years. We had some respite in the last 31 months. But I want to assure you none of these blasts are aimed at foreigners or visiting tourists,” he said in reply to a question by a foreign journalist.

Mr Chidambaram said the bomb in the Dadar area was placed on a bus shelter; in the Opera House business area it was placed on the road and in the Jhaveri Bazaar jewellery market it was on a motorcycle.

“...The density of the population was quite mindboggling. I think they chose places where even a low intensity blast will have a great impact...There were inherent difficulties in policing densely populated areas,” he said.

The attacks were the worst terror strike in the country since the Mumbai carnage that killed 166 people in November 2008.

Expressing “deep regret” to the people of Mumbai over the incident, he said the probe will not start on any “pre-determined assumptions” and will cover every terror group that has the capacity to carry out such strikes in the country.

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