NEW DELHI // A bomb apparently hidden in a suitcase exploded on Wednesday morning outside a crowded gate leading to the High Court in New Delhi, killing nine people and wounding 47 others, officials said.
The blast was the first major terror attack in India since a string of bombs exploded in three busy Mumbai neighbourhoods on July 13, killing 20 people. Suspicion for those attacks fell on the shadowy extremist network known as the Indian Mujahedeen, though no one has been arrested.
Wednesday's bomb exploded about 10.10am near a queue of more than 100 people waiting at a reception counter to get passes for entry to the court building to have their cases heard. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The explosion shook the courthouse, sending lawyers and judges fleeing outside, said Sanjiv Narula, a lawyer who was in the building.
"There was smoke everywhere. People were running. People were shouting. There was blood everywhere. It was very, very scary," said Sangeeta Sondhi, another lawyer, who was parking her car near the gate when the bomb exploded.
People ran to the blast site to assist the injured, piling them into auto-rickshaws to take them to the hospital. Ambulances and forensic teams rushed to the scene, along with sniffer dogs and a bomb disposal unit, apparently checking for any further explosives.
Renu Sehgal, a 42-year-old housewife with a case before the court, had just received her pass and was standing nearby with her uncle and mother while her husband parked their car when she heard the explosion.
"The sound was so huge and suddenly people started running," she said. "We were all in such a big panic. ... I'm lucky I survived."
Constable Sanjay Kumar said the court building was evacuated after the blast.
"It appears that the bomb was in a suitcase because we have the remains of that suitcase," Home Secretary R.K. Singh told CNN-IBN television.
The High Court is an appeals court below India's Supreme Court.
The blast was the second explosion at the High Court this year. On May 25, a small explosion that appeared to be a failed car bomb erupted in the court parking lot.
The attack rekindled memories of the string of deadly bombings that rocked the country in 2008. But that violence had mostly abated after the November 2008 siege of Mumbai, when 10 Pakistan-based militants wreaked havoc across India's commercial capital for 60 hours, killing 166 people.
However, a series of smaller attacks raised concerns in recent months that the violence was returning.
On September 19 last year, two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and wounded two Taiwanese men outside a famous New Delhi mosque. A few minutes later, a bomb rigged to a nearby car malfunctioned and caught fire. On December 7, a bomb exploded in the city of Varanasi, killing a 2-year-old, and a few months later came the failed attack on the New Delhi High Court.
The July attack in three busy neighborhoods in Mumbai was the worst bombing to hit the country in years. Some analysts feared the smaller attacks were an effort to regroup by the Indian Mujahedeen - a domestic extremist group blamed for many of the 2008 attacks.