PM in Mumbai to meet blast victims, govt denies intel failure
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi arrived in Mumbai, a day after the city was hit by three serial blasts that killed 17 people and injured 131 even as home minister P Chidambaram sought to clarify that absence of intelligence inputs did not necessarily mean a a failure of the concerned agencies.Updated: Jul 14, 2011 20:10 IST
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi arrived in Mumbai on Thursday evening, a day after the city was hit by three serial blasts that killed 17 people and injured 131, an official said.
It is likely that Manmohan Singh and Gandhi will visit the hospitals where the people injured in the triple blasts are being treated.
The prime minister will also review the security situation with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and senior officials.
The prime minister has already sanctioned compensation of Rs.200,000 each to the families of those killed, and Rs.100,000 for the injured, a PMO official said.
The visit of the leaders to the city comes hours after Home Minister P. Chidambaram's trip to Mumbai after the bombings, which came 31 months after 10 Pakistani terrorists went on a killing spree in the city, slaughtering 166 Indians and foreigners Nov 26-29, 2008.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani also visited Mumbai Thursday and lashed out at the Manmohan Singh government for not being able to tackle terrorism.
Admitting candidly that there was no prior intelligence input on the triple blasts in Mumbai a day earlier, Chidambaram on Thursday called it a coordinated terror attack that left 17 people dead and 131 injured.
Cautioning against speculation over the people responsible for the strikes, 31 months after the city witnessed one of the worst acts of terrorism on Nov 11, 2008, the home minister, however, said he would not call it a failure of intelligence.
Home minister P Chidambaram sought to clarify that absence of intelligence inputs did not necessarily mean a a failure of the concerned agencies.
"When there is no intelligence on particular agency, it doesn't mean a failure of the agency. There was no intelligence on an imminent attack, but its not failure. In nature of things, whoever prepared the attack, worked in a clandestine manner," he said.
"Maybe, it was a small group. Intelligence is covered everyday and every hour," he said.
"This incident comes after 31 months," he said, referring to the previous blast in the state on Nov 11, 2008.
"In between, there was one terror attack in Pune. But, in a sense, the Mumbai Police have developed a lot of capacity to deal with terror threats and successfully foiled a large number of terror threats."
Hours after visiting the terror sites, Chidambaram said 131 people had been taken to 13 hospitals with injuries. Of these, 26 were discharged, 82 stable and 23 serious. He said one severed head was also found at the site that could take the death toll to 18.
"There was no intelligence input to central or state intel agency regarding yesterday's blast -- it was unfortunate," Chidambaram said at a press conference Thursday morning, with Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
"I request you all, do not speculate. I advise the Maharashtra government not to proceed with pre-suppositions or assumptions," the home minister said, adding that the people of Mumbai had responded "splendidly".
According to Chidambaram, the sites had been cordoned off and the state and central-level teams would continue to work to determine the nature of the explosives. "But it was not a remote trigger blast."
The agencies involved in the probe are the National Security Guard (NSG), the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the home minister said.
"Ammonium nitrate was used with a timer. The fact that they all took place within minutes of each other -- eight-to-10 minutes -- shows that it was a coordinated terror attack," he said.
A top doctor at one of the hospitals where the bodies of the dead were taken for a post mortem said an electric circuit, that may have triggered the blast, was found on one of them, leading to speculation that it may have been a suicide bomber at work.
The state's forensic lab has collected the requisite evidence to ascertain the actual nature of explosive, the timer mechanism, the package that contained the explosives, the place it was located and the damage caused.
Among the three blasts, all in south-to-central Mumbai, he described the one at Dadar as a low-intensity one, and said the other two at Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House were of medium-to-high intensity.
Asked if the attacks were aimed at destabilising activity in the city and the country as a whole, Chidambaram replied: "I don't consider it as an attack on India's commercial capital. It is deeply regrettable. But India will continue to grow and prosper."
He also said the investigators would also keep in mind whether the blasts were aimed at destabilising talks with Pakistan.
"Indo-Pakistan talks are on in a few days. That angle will also be kept in mind."
First Published: Jul 14, 2011 15:20 IST