Mumbai: No leads, PM promises redemption

Last Updated: Thu, Jul 14, 2011 18:42 hrs

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday pledged to do everything in his government's capacity to prevent future terror strikes, even as investigators still struggled to attribute the Mumbai explosions to perpetrators.

With a seemingly purposeful approach to the situation on ground, authorities and ministers refused to speculate on who was responsible for the rush-hour attack that left 18 dead and over 130 injured in the blasts that tore through bustling hubs of India's commerce capital on

Wednesday evening.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and Home Minister P Chidambaram said that the government did not want to point a finger at this stage.

"We have to look at every possible hostile group," he said at a news conference.

Investigators combed through rain-soaked streets and scoured videos from security cameras trying to piece together the events leading up to the incident. Intelligence sources were quoted saying that those behind the attacks had shown "a level of sophistication" not seen earlier.

Sources said attackers who had crafted the strike did not communicate via phones or e-mails. They were familiar with the target locations and the monsoon to their advantage. Collecting evidence and identifying umbrella-covered faces were all being hampered due to the downpour.

Officials said that ammonium nitrate, used in fertilizers, had been used in the bombs, which most likely used cell phone alarms, rather than a remote trigger, as the detonator. The explosions were closely coordinated and specifically targeted heavily trafficked areas.

"They were not crude bombs but sophisticated devices," Home Secretary R K Singh was quoted as saying in New Delhi. "Only somebody who has training can assemble those devices," he added.

Singh also informed that a corpse had been found which had wires attached to it. Whether this was the case of a suicide attack was still unclear though. A severed head had also been found at one of the blast sites.

The explosion at Zaveri Bazaar was the most powerful one but the one at Opera House - the centre for the city's diamond traders - had the maximum impact because of the way the explosive was placed.

Eleven people were killed and 73 people were injured here.

The Home Ministry's Internal Security secretary U K Bansal asserted there were no specific leads now but the investigations were on.

"There is no special lead. All are suspects," he said, adding that Indian Mujahideen accused arrested recently are being interrogated.

While the investigators fought to piece together the evidence Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi arrived in Mumbai to visit the victims and survey the situation.

They were briefed by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, following which they went to visit the victims at the Saifee Hospital. Prime Minister Singh assured the people that "the government will do everything in its power to prevent such attacks in the future."

Using tough words Singh condemned the attack and promised action. "I have asked the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and the Union Home Minister to continue to coordinate their efforts and resources to relentlessly pursue the perpetrators," he said.

"They must be brought to justice quickly and be subject to the rule of law that they have sought to subvert. I seek the cooperation of all citizens in this effort. We owe this to the grieving families," the PM said.

"I cannot find words to condemn the barbaric acts of terror that resulted in the senseless killing and injuring of innocent people in Mumbai yesterday. I understand the shock and outrage of the people of Mumbai. I share their pain, anguish and anger," the PM said.

"I have come here in solidarity with the people of Mumbai. I extend my deepest condolences and sympathies to those who have suffered in this terrible tragedy.

"The need of the hour is to look after their medical and other immediate needs. I have asked the State Government to ensure that all support is provided so that these families can overcome the tragedy and rebuild their lives," he said.

"We have already announced ex gratia payment of Rs.2 lakhs to the next of kin of those killed and Rs. 1 lakh to those injured from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund," he said.

The Central Government and the State Government have acted quickly to deal with the situation, the PM said.

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani however criticised the government's action. Hinting at Pakistan´s hand in the Mumbai blasts, he said India should not be ambivalent towards terrorism and adopt a zero tolerance policy and deal with Pakistan sternly.

"The Government of India must shed its ambivalence toward terrorism.

Yesterday´s act should be of zero tolerance. It should not be condoned," said Advani who visited hospitals on Thursday.

"It is not a failure of intelligence, it is a failure of policy," he said.

Advani said India´s relations with Pakistan should be on the basic premise that they must dismantle the infrastructure of terror they created.

"History can be changed, but you cannot change geography. We have to live with our neighbour. The people of Pakistan are also not happy with Pakistan´s obsession with Kashmir. They know the obsession is not helping Pakistan anyway," said Advani.

He said countries which used terrorism as an instrument of state policy has suffered since terrorism backfired on them.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi meanwhile on Thursday said that attacks such as these were difficult to prevent all the time.

"It is very difficult to stop every single terrorist attack. The steps that being taken by our government over the last couple of years are quite profound steps," he said here during his ongoing Orissa tour.

He claimed that there is improvement in the intelligence and the way terrorism is tackled.

"But terrorism is something that it is impossible to stop all the time," he said.

The Shiv Sena in Mumbai however slammed Gandhi for allegedly equating the Mumbai attacks with those in Afghanistan.

Shiv Sena lawmaker Sanjay Raut said equating terror strikes in India with those in Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan is an insult to those killed.

Meanwhile the city of Mumbai limped back to normalcy on the rain soaked Thursday morning, carrying a forced sense of resilience.

Anger and wariness was visible throughout, mostly stifled and sometimes pouring out, as the metropolis was reminded of another such morning three years ago.

"People are angry. Our security is no one´s concern," said Jayesh Labdhi, a committee member of the Mumbai Diamond Merchants´ Association speaking to IBNS.

"Do we have a choice but to be resilient? We had many times complained against illegal parking in the Opera House area, but to no heed," said Labdhi who himself counted about 13 bodies in the area.

Major terror strikes have shook the city frequently. In November 2008, ten Pakistan-based militants armed with assault rifles and grenades had held a three-day long siege on key spots of Mumbai, an attack that ended in the death of 166 people and over 300 being injured.

"We go out and we are not sure if we would be able to return home safe or fall victim to blasts and terror. That is the feeling in Mumbai now," said Anuradha, a young Mumbai woman whose office is located in Zaveri Bazaar area.

"Life is going on and we are on the street very next day. But it is our compulsion and not courage," she said.

An angry relative of one of the victims at J J Hospital blasted the government for its indifference to tackling terrorism.

"You see how we are protecting 26/11 attacker Ajmal Kasab in the jail," said the angry relative who lost his uncle.

Filmmaker and social activist Ashok Pandit was livid as he slammed the politicians and their inaction.

"This is like a repeat telecast of previous such incidents. This intelligence failure or not story is a sham, it is a hoax. The word resilience of Mumbai is nothing but an excuse for our impotency," said the angry filmmaker at a national news channel.

In Mumbai, every citizen is angry with the government´s failure to take any strong action on the front of terrorism.

According to counter terrorism analyst Ajai Sahni, there is no point in even having intelligence if there is no capacity to fight terror countrywide.

"Intelligence gathering and network have to be nationwide and not just in Mumbai. In the past years there were arrests too by Mumbai Police, but they cannot help without our capacity to fight the menace and dismantle the terror network all over India," he said.

Despite the brazenness and the impact of the attack, Home Minister Chidamabarm maintained that this was not an intelligence failure or due to the lack of preparedness of the state's law enforcement agencies.

"There were no intelligence inputs. There was no intelligence regarding this incident
in Mumbai. This was not the failure of intelligence as they are collected every moment and every hour," he said.

"I will like to note that after 26/11 Mumbai was reasonably secured. This incident happened after 31 months. There was only Pune terror attack in between. The Mumbai and Maharashtra police have neutralized large number of terror threats," he said.

Under fire from questions, he added, "All the cities in the world are vulnerable. We lie in the most troubled neighbourhood in the world. Pakistan and Afghanistan are epicentre of terror."

"The capacities of Maharashtra police and Mumbai police have increased significantly. It is unfortunate that despite the increase the terror attack occurred yesterday."

However, widespread dissent, even anger, was visible in the people of the city that met its second terror strike in three years following the deadly November 2008 attack and after the government said it was doing its best to not see a repeat.

Through the night, hospitals in India's financial capital were in overdrive and gruesome scenes were visible at the four main hospitals where the victims were being treated.

Chidambaram reached the city late into the night and visited the three blast sites, all of them crowded areas - clearly chosen to create maximum casualties. He also visited the injured at the Saifee hospital and held a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan at Mantralaya.

Forensic teams from Delhi and Pune flew down to the sites to collect evidence. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) reached the city while a six-member post-blast investigation team of the National Security Guard (NSG) also arrived.

According to the Home Ministry, the three blasts tore through the city one by one in a span of 12 minutes with the first one at Opera House (6:54 pm), at Zaveri Bazaar (6:55 pm) and at Kabuthar Khana, Dadar (7:06 pm) on Wednesday.

The strikes drew widespread condemnation from the international community. Pakistan, with whom India´s peace talks that broke down after the 26/11 has resumed this year, has also condemned the blasts.

"President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the government and the people of Pakistan have condemned the blasts in Mumbai and expressed distress on the loss of lives and injuries," said a statement from Pakistan´s Foreign Office.

A White House statement in Washington quoted President Barack Obama
saying "we will offer support to India´s efforts to bring the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton too condemned the attacks and said that her plan to vist Indian next week to talk over bilateral ties remained unchanged.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday strongly condemned the bomb attacks in Mumbai, saying no cause or grievance can justify the indiscriminate violence against civilians.

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