You are here

Hyderabad Woes: Mecca Masjid, Lumbini Park...

T. Khurshchev Singh was Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • September 13, 2007

    Hyderabad has been reeling under deadly terror strikes. Three months after the serial blasts at Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007, another pair of coordinated attacks rocked the city on August 25. Repeated attacks by outfits with support from foreign covert agencies have made Hyderabad an epicentre of terrorist operations in India. The twin blasts on August 25 and the subsequent recovery of unexploded bombs from different places pointed to a security lapse as well as a delayed government response to demands for beefing up the city's protective measures in the aftermath of the May explosions.

    The pair of synchronized attacks took place at two popular spots among people, and resulted in the death of 42 people (including 14 Muslims) and injury to over 100. The first bomb exploded at around 7.30 pm during a laser show on Hyderabad's history in Lumbini Park, an open-air theatre and India's biggest laser show arena with a seating capacity of 1,800. The bomb ripped through four middle rows of seats and took 11 lives from an audience of about 500 people. The second explosion took place at a popular restaurant in Kothi, where famous eateries and book stalls are located. Both targets are located at the heart of Hyderabad's commercial district.

    Though investigations are on, no substantive clues have been found so far. But a few people have been arrested in connection with the incidents. Immediately after the blast, 25 people were arrested by the state police for interrogation, which was of not much help. Then, on the next day, three cycle shop owners were detained from Bhongir in Nalgonda district on suspicion of supplying bicycle ball bearings that were used as pellets in the bombs. On the third day, an Assamese, who apparently looked like a Bangladeshi, was apprehended because of suspicious behaviour. It needs to be borne in mind here that the militant outfit suspected of carrying out these terror attacks is the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), which is based in Bangladesh and is said to regularly infiltrate into India to recruit cadres and open sleeping cells across the country including in Assam.

    On August 29, 2007, a computer-generated portrait of a person, suspected to have planted the bomb in Lumbini Park, was produced. Interestingly, in the course of a narcoanalysis test conducted on one of the arrested persons, Syed Imran Khan, it was learnt that some 10 kilograms of Royal Demolition eXplosive (RDX) were smuggled into the city in February 2007 out of which 800 grams were used in the bombs that ripped through Mecca Masjid. This information was to an extent substantiated by the subsequent arrest of a Bangladeshi national, Shareefa Rustomji, who confirmed that explosives have been smuggled into the city.

    Despite all out efforts, the Andhra police have not been able to track down the actual perpetrator, though the needle of suspicion points towards the HuJI chief, Sahid Bilal aka Aamir, who had also been accused of masterminding the Mecca Masjid blasts on May 18, 2007; the Samjhauta Express explosions near Panipat on February 19, 2007 and the October 12, 2005 suicide attack on the Special Task Force headquarters in Hyderabad. At the same time, the possibility of the involvement of cadres of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and/or of the Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) are also being investigated, given that over a dozen trained international terror outfits are on the prowl in the city. In fact, one reliable report has stated that at least 1000 active foreign terror elements are currently operating in Andhra Pradesh. Since Muslims constitute 40 per cent of the city's population, it is often considered easy for foreign Islamic militant groups and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to recruit jehadi elements and establish sleeping cells in Hyderabad.

    What has made the city vulnerable are the booming IT sector and general laxity in security. Central agencies have repeatedly warned that Hyderabad has been on the terrorist radar since the early 1990s. It is worth mentioning that both the blasts in May and August 2007 happened despite National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan warning against possible terrorist strikes in the city. However no adequate measures seem to have been undertaken. Authorities in Hyderabad have been blamed for not providing adequate security and for not investing sufficient resources for intelligence gathering on terrorism. The counter-intelligence wing, whose job is to tackle terror threats, is said to be understaffed and ill-trained, whereas the anti-Naxal wing is well sustained with money and manpower. Moreover, out of the state's 80,000-odd police force, only about 30,000 are reportedly well equipped, serving as they do in special wings. In addition, most of the better equipped personnel are either posted in Naxal-prone areas or are committed to protecting the 294 MLAs and 90 MLCs in the state. As Naxalites primarily target political figures and government property, Naxalism is treated with greater seriousness than other threats. The total number of fatalities in Andhra Pradesh caused by left-wing extremism in the last three years (2005-2007) is 546 (including civilian, security forces and Naxals), which is said to be the highest among the 13 Naxal-affected states in the country.

    One important fact that has come to light in the course of the last few significant terrorist strikes in India is that terrorists seem to be targeting sensitive places like temples, mosques, theatres, crowded markets, etc. on days of congregation. Bombs have been set to go off during prayers on holy days, during evening rush hours or on weekends when a large number of people are likely to be present. For instance, the latest blasts at Lumbini Park in Hyderabad and the bomb exploded in New Delhi's Sarojini Nagar market in October 2005 took place on a Saturday evening. The May 2005 terrorist targeting of the Liberty and Satyam cinemas in Delhi occurred on a Sunday. Most attacks on mosques have occurred on Fridays so as to have maximum impact: the May 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts; the September 19, 2006 attack on Arehmani Masjid and Bada Kabrastan in Malegon; and the April 14, 2006 targeting of Delhi's Jama Masjid. The September 2002 terrorist attack on the Akshardam Temple in Gandhinagar was on a Tuesday. Security establishments around the country need to factor this aspect in their security drills and enhance their vigilance on such occasions.

    The successive terrorist strikes in Hyderabad not only reveal the fact that the city is emerging as a breeding ground for terrorists, but also exposes the inadequacies of the security establishment in the city.