A car bomb exploded in central New Delhi on Saturday in an apparent attempt to assassinate a top politician crippled in a similar attack last year. He escaped with shrapnel wounds to the chest, but at least eight people were killed and 36 wounded.
The blast occurred at midday as Maninder Singh Bitta, 35, president of the governing Congress Party’s youth wing, left his office in a car. His two bodyguards were among the dead, police said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but police suspect Sikh terrorists. Bitta, a Sikh from Punjab, has been the target of several attacks by rebels from the northern state.
He lost a leg in a bombing that killed 13 people in the Punjab holy city of Amritsar on July 7, 1992.
In Saturday’s attack, two bombs were planted in a car and detonated by remote control, police said. The vehicle was destroyed by the blast. Two craters, each two feet in diameter, were dug into the road, and the lower branches of a tree overhead were blown off.
Burning tires and pieces of metal and glass were strewn across a 100-yard area near Parliament and many government buildings.
Rescuers pulled mangled bodies from damaged cars as smoke billowed into the sky. Passengers in a passing public bus were injured, and drivers at a nearby taxi stand were cut by glass.
The death toll probably would have been much higher if it had not been raining heavily or if Saturday had been a regular workday. All of the city’s government buildings were closed.
Soon after the explosion, security forces in the Indian capital of 10 million people were put on high alert. Police put up road barricades all over New Delhi and checked vehicles coming into the city.
India’s military is fighting insurgencies led by Sikhs in Punjab and Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir state.