HYDERABAD – Indian police revealed Friday they had been warned of a possible attack by Islamist militants in a bustling shopping area of Hyderabad where twin bombings killed at least 14 people and wounded scores.
The nearly simultaneous attacks on Thursday night outside a movie theater and a bus stand in the district of Dilsukh Nagar were the first deadly bombings in India since 2011 and triggered international condemnation, including from rival Pakistan.
They also raised questions about whether Australia’s cricket team would go ahead with a scheduled match against India in Hyderabad starting on March 2.
As investigators sifted through the wreckage in their hunt for the perpetrators, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said those responsible for the “dastardly act” will be punished.
No group has claimed responsibility, but newspapers pointed the finger at the group Indian Mujahideen. A senior detective said two of the group’s militants had spoken of a possible attack in the area during interrogation last October.
“We interrogated two militants who said they had recced various spots in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune for a possible attack,” said S.N. Shrivastava, a Delhi police commissioner with responsibility for antiterrorism operations. “One of the places they mentioned was Dilsukh Nagar, which was hit last night.”
The main opposition Bhartiya Janata Party seized on the revelation as a sign of intelligence failure by the Congress party-led government.
“If they had specific information, what was the central government and the state government doing? Why was nothing done to prevent such an incident?” Sushma Swaraj, the BJP’s leader in Parliament, told lawmakers.
Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for numerous bombings in recent years and is often listed as a suspect in attacks across the country.
While Hindus form the majority of the population in Hyderabad, there is a sizable community of Muslims living in the old quarter.
The attacks came at a time when India was on alert after the recent hanging of a separatist unleashed protests in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.
Questioned about Indian Mujahideen’s possible involvement, Home Minister Shushil Kumar Shinde said it is too early to say. While authorities had received intelligence of a possible threat of attack, “it was not specific,” he added.
A report on India’s NDTV network said the cables of closed circuit television cameras had been cut days before the blasts.
Speaking on a visit to the scene, Shinde put the death toll at 14 and the number of injured at 119. N. Rao, a senior police official in Hyderabad, gave the toll as 16, with 80 wounded.
Police said three of the dead were college students, while one of the most seriously injured was a pregnant woman.
Sambaraju Shylaja, a receptionist who was in the area, told how the blasts triggered panic as people feared there could be yet more attacks. “Everything was flying around, everything was so threatening and horrible, bodies were lying around everywhere. Everyone was rushing for their lives,” she said.
Hyderabad is one of the main hubs of the country’s computing industry and hosts local offices of Google and Microsoft.