The bomb blast in the Mecca Masjid on Friday afternoon and subsequent police firing to control the rampaging mob that fought a pitched battle with police for nearly three hours, have taken a toll of 12 lives in the old city of Hyderabad.
Four more persons succumbed to bomb related injuries taking the blast toll to nine, whereas three protestors were killed in police firing. A total of 53 persons suffered injuries and are being treated at various government and private hospitals.
The situation in most parts of the walled city, home to over 10 lakh Muslims remained tense. Large contingents of policemen drawn from nearby districts and rapid action force have been deployed in all the sensitive areas. "The situation is under control, though tension prevails," Hyderabad City Police Commissioner Balwinder Singh said.
He said that the two unexploded bombs, which were found in abandoned tiffin boxes had been sent to the AP State Forensic Science Laboratory and the results would be known in a day or two.
Director-General of Police MA Basith told HT the bombs had a sophisticated mechanism which was not available in Hyderabad. "The two unexploded bombs which we recovered are sophisticated and have a trigger. The bombs were remotecontrolled by cell-phones," he said.
"We assume that the same sophisticated mechanism would have been used for triggering the bomb that exploded in the mosque. That capacity is not available in Hyderabad so far," he said, hinting that it could be the handiwork of elements who came from outside or were supported by forces from outside.
The police had a difficult time as the bomb blast sparked off violent protests by minority comunity members. Hundreds of people poured into the streets and brickbatted the police, ransacking and looting shops and offices, damaging transport buses and setting private vehicles on fire. At several places, black flags were hoisted at the road junctions.
The police responded by resorting to lathicharge, lobbing of teargas shells, use of water cannons and firing in the air. The police also fired at the unruly mobs at two places, resulting in injuries to four persons.
Police pickets have been posted and patrolling intensified all over the twin cities.
Chief Minister Dr YS Rajasekhar Reddy, who condemned the bomb blast, said "This is an intentional sabotage of the peace and tranquility of the state. He announced ex-gratia compensation of Rs 500,000 each to the next of kin of the deceased victims and Rs 20,000 to the seriously injured persons. He said that it was too early to speculate on who could have been behind the attack. He appealed to the people to show restrain and cooperate with the police in maintaining peace and communal harmony.
The administration has alerted police forces all over the state. Superintendents and Commissioners of Police in the districts and major cities have been directed to take all precautions to ensure peace and order.
State Home Minister K Jana Reddy said the bomb blast at Mecca Masjid was a "deep rooted" conspiracy to disturb peace in the state. He said security has been stepped up in all the districts to maintain law and order in the aftermath of the Hyderabad blast.
Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil was in touch with state Chief Minister and Home Minister. The Centre has put one contingent of Rapid Action Force stationed in Hyderabad at the disposal of the state government. The Centre has also rushed a team of forensic experts to Hyderabad to help investigate the nature of the blast.