Five people died in two separate explosions in Uttar Pradesh on Monday, sending investigators scrambling to ascertain the possibility of a terror plot — at least in one instance.
Around 8am, a blast ripped through a three-storey house in Kanpur's congested Colonelgunj area, killing a middle-aged woman and injuring seven.
Nearly 130 km away in Hardoi district, four members of a family, including two children, were killed when a stockpile of crackers exploded in a two-storey building.
Teams of the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS), special task force and forensic experts are assisting the police in probing the Kanpur blast.
Investigators suspect explosives hidden beneath the staircase of the house, possibly meant to manufacture firecrackers illegally, triggered the explosion. They have, however, not ruled out a terror angle as yet.
The victim, Rehana Khatoon, 40, was sweeping the area near the staircase when the "medium intensity" blast took place, police said. Her body was badly mangled.
Portions of the building, including the boundary wall, stairs and bathroom were destroyed in the blast. Bricks and glass shards flew far and wide, injuring people in the vicinity.
"It appears the people in the house were into making illegal firecrackers," said Amitabh Yash, DIG, Kanpur. "We are pursuing other leads as well."
The owner of the house, Abbas Ali alias Kakku, was at his in-law's house at Safipur in Unnao district, around 30km away, at the time of the blast. He was picked up and taken to Kanpur, where intelligence agencies interrogated him.
"We questioned him intensively, but failed to get any vital information," said Farmood Ali Pundir, inspector, Colonelganj.
In Hardoi, the roof of the house collapsed after the explosion, killing Rukshana, 12, Mushran, 5, Wasida, 40 and Nagma 45, the police said. Seven others were injured in the explosion and admitted to the district hospital.
The house belongs to one Khurshid, who makes firecrackers.