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Terror hits Ajmer Sharif dargah; 2 dead, 17 injured

A bomb blast at the Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti dargah tears apart the solemn assembly of the devout. HT correspondents report.
Hindustan Times | By KS Tomar, BP Singh and Tushar Srivastava, Jaipur/new Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 12, 2007 03:55 AM IST

A bomb exploded at the Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti dargah on Thursday, tearing apart the solemn assembly of the devout just as evening fell and officials began preparations for iftaar to end the day’s Ramzan fast.

Two persons died on way to hospital and 17 were injured, five of them seriously. No organisation has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion, which has been described as an act of terrorism.

History of the shrine

The Ajmerdargah houses the tomb of the 13th-century Sufi saint KhwajaMoinuddinChisti, who came to Ajmer from Persia in 1192.

Sufism is a mystical form of Islam, considered more liberal in philosophy than the branches followed by Shias and Sunnis.

A few hundred thousand devotees, including many Hindus, flock to this shrine the year round to offer prayers and gifts of flowers and chaddars or to fulfil vows.

Apart from well-known Indians, Pakistani leaders like General PervezMusharraf and BenazirBhutto have also visited the shrine during state visits.

Investigators found splinters of a mobile phone at the spot, which, they said, pointed to similarities with the explosions at the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad in May where the two bombs there were triggered by a mobile phone.

The government has sounded a nationwide alert and asked for increased security specially at places of worship in view of the start of the festive season — Navratras start on Friday and Id is expected on Saturday.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil condemned the blast and asked people to ensure that the designs of elements inimical to the country are not allowed to succeed.

He said that the home ministry is in touch with the government of Rajasthan to provide proper succor to the victims. “We’ve assured them that the state government would be helped to act against the culprits,” Patil said.

The bomb exploded at aahate-noor, opposite the Mazaar-e-Sharif at 6.12 pm as the devout assembled for the last roza-iftaar. Eyewitness said there were at least 10,000 people inside the dargah.

The shrine houses the tomb of the 13th century Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti who came to Ajmer from Persia in 1192. The shrine is extremely popular among both Muslims and Hindus. The explosion caused a stampede in which some people were injured. One of the persons who died was identified as Mohammad Shoeb, who had come from Mumbai with his wife. The other dead has not yet been identified.

Target: where people pray

May 18: A blast at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid kills nine people. High intensity explosive used. HuJI blamed.

September 8, 2006: Three blasts in Malegaon kills 37. One occurred near Hamidiya mosque, killing five. High intensity explosives used. Two SIMI activists involved.

April 12, 2006: Two blasts at Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid. No deaths. Explosives used were crude. LeT suspected.

August 27, 2004: Motorcyclist hurls a crude bomb at a mosque in Jalna town in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district. Seven people injured. Bajrang Dal, SIMI blamed.

Five of the 17 injured were said to be in a critical condition. Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje said, “The government will provide Rs 5 lakh to the families of the dead and Rs 1 lakh each to the injured.”

“It was a low-intensity explosion,” said superintendent of police PS Sangathir. The police, bomb experts and intelligence officials cordoned off the area to look for traces of the explosive, to identify the type used.

Ajmer divisional commissioner Deepak Upreti said, "According to eyewitnesses, some unidentified person planted a bomb near a tree near Ahaate noor and disappeared."

Senior intelligence officials in Delhi said the mobile phone had been completely damaged and the possibility of getting IMEI number of the handset or the SIM card intact was next to none. "The cell phone had been attached to the explosive. The alarm clock would have acted as the trigger. The moment the alarm rang, it would have triggered the explosive," sources said. Security officials also pointed out that this was the fourth such incident of a terrorist strike against an Islamic place of worship — the three other being Jama Masjid in Delhi, Malegaon Mosque and Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad.

A home ministry spokesman said, "It seems to have been an attempt by anti-national elements to create communal disharmony and panic."

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