Bombers target India rally
Five dead as seven bombs explode in Indian city of Patna hours before election rally
Smoke rises after a bomb exploded near a public ground where Gujarat’s chief minister and Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was to address a rally in the eastern Indian city of Patnatoday. Photograph: Krishna Murari Kishan/Reuters
Campaigning for India’s tight national election turned violent when a series of blasts ahead of opposition candidate Narendra Modi’s rally in an eastern Indian city left five people dead and 83 wounded. Photograph: Krishna Murari Kishan/Reuters
The first blast happened at the city’s train station, CNN-IBN reported. Six more low-intensity explosions went off near the venue of the political gathering organised by the nation’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, the television channel said.
Images showed thick white smoke rising from one of the bomb sites. The federal government has sent probe teams to Patna, the capital of the eastern state of Bihar, as it awaits a report from local authorities, Junior Home Minister RPN Singh told reporters in New Delhi.
No group or individual has claimed responsibility for planting the bombs. The latest string of blasts is the second in three months in Bihar after nine explosions in July rocked one of Buddhism’s holiest shrines. India had been targeted at least 11 times by terrorists since November 2008, when the government pledged to improve policing and intelligence gathering after Pakistani gunmen killed 166 people during a three-day siege of Mumbai, the country’s financial centre.
The BJP pressed ahead with the rally as Mr Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, campaigns for polls that must be held by May to elect representatives to the 545-member lower house of parliament. Janata Dal (United), a former ally of the BJP that governs Bihar, left the BJP’s opposition alliance in June over its aversion to Modi’s growing clout in national politics. The BJP had arranged 14 special trains and several buses to bring party workers from different parts of the country to participate in the rally, CNN-IBN reported, while the Press Trust of India said the blasts occurred after they had reached the city.
“There have been injuries and we are busy making arrangements,” Jayant Kant, the city’s police superintendent, said by phone and declined to answer further questions.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in comments posted on his Twitter account, appealed for calm and peace after the bomb explosions. Two people were injured after nine low-intensity bombs shook the vicinity of the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bodh Gaya in July in Bihar, where Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment.
Three live bombs were defused outside the shrine. In April, 16 people were injured when a device attached to a motorcycle exploded near the BJP office in the southern city of Bangalore.
Mr Modi arouses strong emotions in the nation of 1.2 billion people. To followers, he’s a cult figure who dragged Gujarat from the ashes of the 2002 rioting, wooing businesses and cutting red tape and corruption.
To opponents, he’s an autocrat who failed to control the attacks on Muslims by Hindu mobs or show enough remorse over the killings. Mr Modi has denied any wrongdoing and a Supreme Court-appointed panel investigating one documented incident found no evidence that he took decisions to prevent assistance from reaching those being attacked.
His group claimed it orchestrated a February attack that killed 16 people in Hyderabad and a 2011 bombing at New Delhi’s high court that left 15 people dead. Loose Network
The Indian Mujahedeen emerged in 2008 as a loose network of Islamic militants. The group was responsible for attacks that killed at least 150 people in 2008 alone, according to the study by the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis.
The group has links with Pakistan, including guerrilla groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to the US State Department. India alleges Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the November 2008 attack in Mumbai. The South Asian country has also been a target of attacks by Maoist rebels who operate in resource-rich states and say they are fighting for the rights of exploited poor villagers and tribal communities. Senior members of Mr Singh’s ruling Congress party were among the 27 killed in an ambush by the insurgents.