New Delhi/Tel Aviv, Feb 13 (IANS) A car belonging to the Israeli embassy went up in flames Monday afternoon after a blast in an area close to the Indian prime minister's house, with Israel describing it as a terror attack and pointing fingers at Iran. India has ordered a probe into the explosion, which injured four people, including an Israeli woman.
The incident took place not far from the 7, Race Course Road residence of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at 3.18 p.m.
Ajay Chaddha, secretary (internal security) in India's home ministry, said the fire resulted from an explosion caused by a 'foreign substance attached to the rear of the vehicle.'
According to an eyewitness, there was an explosion in the Israeli embassy's Tata Innova car that had four people, including a woman, travelling in it. The registration number of the car is 109 CD 35. The car got badly damaged as it caught fire immediately after the blast.
The incident happened on the Safdarjung Road-Aurangzeb Road crossing - a leafy avenue that houses the bungalows of Indian government dignitaries including cabinet ministers as well as some foreign ambassadors and is a high-security zone.
A Tata Indica car moving alongside the Innova was also damaged.
According to another eyewitness Ravi Singh, passers-by rushed to rescue the people trapped in the two cars.
'Tal Yehoshua Koren (42), wife of the defence attache in the embassy and an employee, her driver Manoj Sharma (42), and two other people Arun Sharma and Manjeet Singh (who were in the Indiaca) were injured in the incident that took place at 3.18 p.m. at Aurangzeb Road crossing in the city,' Delhi police chief B.K. Gupta told reporters.
Narrating the sequence of events, based on eyewitness' accounts, Gupta said: 'The woman was going to the American embassy school to pick up her children. According to an eyewitness, a biker pasted some kind of magnetic device to the car. After the motorcycle sped off, there was a blast and it caught fire.'
Gupta said that there was only one person on the bike.
The fire department received the first call at 3.18 p.m. One fire tender reached the spot to douse the flames.
India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna assured his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lierberman that the law of 'the land will take its course'. Tel Aviv was also assured that New Delhi will keep it posted on the progress in the investigation.
David Goldfarb, spokesperson of the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, described the explosion as a terror attack. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Iran was behind the car bomb attack on Israeli officials in India as well as a thwarted attack in Tbilisi.
Media reports in Israel pointed out that the incident took place between the anniversaries of the assassination of Hezbollah's military commanders Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in Damascus on Feb 12, 2008 and Abbas Mussawi, which spark annual travel warnings from the Israeli government.
Indian officials didn't rule out a terror link. An alert was sounded in the Indian capital and the government asked foreign missions to be on vigil.
'The Israeli woman is being treated in a private hospital. Her condition is stable while the other three injured have suffered minor injuries,' the Indian police chief said.
A team of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) is examining the car to find the kind of explosive used, he said.
Israel's foreign ministry swiftly said that Israel had the ability to track down those who carried it out.
'We know how to identify exactly who is responsible for the attack and who carried it out. We will not allow this to affect our agenda,' said Lieberman.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in Jerusalem that Israeli authorities were investigating the blast in New Delhi as well as the incident in Tbilisi.
This was the second high-visibility incident that targeted Israelis in India after the much-publicised terrorist assault on the Jewish Centre in Mumbai during the 26/11 terror spree more than three years ago.
India established diplomatic ties with Israel only two decades ago in 1992.
The incident occurred more than a month after Krishna visited Israel in the first visit by an Indian foreign minister to that country in over a decade.
Israeli security authorities raised the level of alert at its embassies all over the world.
In recent years, Hezbollah, a fiercely anti-Israel militia linked to Iran, has tried to avenge Mughniye''s assassination and other attacks on Israeli scientists which were allegedly carried out by Israeli spy agency Mossad.