At least 11 killed, dozens hurt in blast at Delhi High Court
A blast outside India’s Delhi High Court on Wednesday morning that authorities said resulted from a terror attack killed at least 11 people and injured dozens,the biggest to hit the Indian capital since a series of market blasts detonated three years ago, killing 25.
U.K. Bansal, special home secretary, told local media that early suspicion pointed to a device hidden in a briefcase. Court proceedings were suspended, the complex evacuated and India’s capital placed on high alert. Several news organizations reported receiving an email allegedly from Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HUJI), a Pakistani Islamist terror group, claiming responsibility.
If a Pakistani role is confirmed, the attack would likely worsen relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, which have only recently emerged from a deep freeze following the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people
Police said the explosion appeared to have been caused by a medium- to high-intensity improvised device made with ammonium nitrate, an easy-to-obtain substance used in fertilizers, although more details would emerge after a forensic investigation.
“There was a bomb blast where you enter the court,” eyewitness Kirti Uppal told India’s CNN-IBN news network. “It was very powerful. There seem to be many casualties.”
The explosion took place outside Gate 5, the court’s busiest entrance, shortly after the court opened. The complex faced higher-than-usual traffic Wednesday because several public-interest cases were scheduled, which tend to attract larger audiences.
The alleged terror group email demanded that the court repeal a 2004 death sentence against Mohammed Afzal Guru for his role in an attack on India’s parliament three years earlier that killed seven or else the group would “target major high courts and the Supreme Court of India,” it added.
The head of India’s National Investigation Agency said it was too early to comment on the email’s veracity but said it was being taken seriously.
The explosion reportedly occurred just outside a checkpoint where entrants and their bags are subject to searches and metal detection, leading some media to suggest it was purposely selected as a soft target.
Television footage showed general confusion and dozens of lawyers on cell phones as fire and ambulance crews scrambled to care for the injured. Police quickly cordoned off the area in case of other explosive devices and to protect the evidence, a change from past explosions when suspected crime scenes often have been quickly overrun by pedestrians and the media.
In the wake of a Mumbai attack in late 2008 that killed 166 people and held the financial capital hostage for more than two days, Indian security has been criticized for its weak intelligence, outdated equipment and poor vigilance.
No one was injured in a low-intensity blast at the court in May. Some speculated that the earlier attack was a dry run for Wednesday’s blast.
Bansal said security had been stepped up in recent months at Delhi courts, tourist sites and other areas of strategic importance. That said, no closed circuit television cameras were installed around the court complex some three months after the May bombing, critics pointed out, which might have helped identify suspects.
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