Twin bombings kill 14, wound more in south India

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Associated Press

Posted on February 21, 2013 at 7:30 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 21 at 11:34 PM

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — A day after two bicycle bombs killed 14 people and wounded more than 100, investigators into India's worst bombing in more than a year searched Friday for possible links to anger over the execution of a Muslim militant.

The bombs exploded minutes apart late Thursday in a crowded shopping area in the southern city of Hyderabad — one of them near a cinema and one near a bus station. The blasts shattered storefronts, scattered food and plates from roadside restaurants and left tangles of dead bodies. Passersby rushed the wounded to hospitals.

"This is a dastardly attack; the guilty will not go unpunished," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. He appealed to the public to remain calm.

India has been in a state of alert since Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri, was hanged in a New Delhi jail nearly two weeks ago after being convicted of involvement in a 2001 attack on India's Parliament. The assault killed 14 people, including five of the gunmen.

Many in Indian-ruled Kashmir believe Guru did not receive a fair trial, and the secrecy with which the execution was carried out fueled anger in a region where anti-India sentiment runs deep.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said there was a general alert about the possibility of an attack somewhere in India for the past three days. "But there was no specific intelligence about a particular place," he said.

The bombs were attached to two bicycles about 150 meters (500 feet) apart in Hyderabad's Dilsukh Nagar district, Shinde told reporters in New Delhi. He said 14 people died and 119 others were injured, six of them critically.

Top state police officer V. Dinesh Reddy said improvised explosive devices with nitrogen compound were used in the blasts.

Mahesh Kumar, a 21-year-old student, was heading home from a tutoring class when a bomb went off.

"I heard a huge sound and something hit me, I fell down, and somebody brought me to the hospital," said Kumar, who suffered shrapnel wounds.

Hyderabad, a city of 10 million in the state of Andhra Pradesh, is a hub of India's information technology industry and has a mixed population of Muslims and Hindus.

"This (attack) is to disturb the peaceful living of all communities in Andhra Pradesh," said Kiran Kumar Reddy, the state's chief minister.

The explosions were the first major bomb attack to hit India since a September 2011 blast outside the High Court in New Delhi killed 13 people. The government has been heavily criticized for its failure to arrest the masterminds behind previous bombings.

Officials from the National Investigation Agency and commandos of the National Security Guards arrived from New Delhi to help with the investigation in Hyderabad.

The United States, whose Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting Thursday in Washington with Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, condemned the attack.

"The United States stands with India in combating the scourge of terrorism and we also prepared to offer any and all assistance Indian authorities may need," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing.

Rana Banerji, a former security official, said India remains vulnerable to such attacks because there is poor coordination between the national government and the states. Police reforms are also moving very slowly and the quality of intelligence gathering is poor, he said.

"The concept of homeland security should be made effective, on a war footing," he said.

Rajnath Singh, the president of main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, demanded a thorough probe into the blasts. His party called for a general strike in the state on Friday.

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Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in New Delhi and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

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