x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Blasts shake India

Bombings in Ahmedabad and Bangalore prompt fears that India is under attack from a home-grown terrorist network after "Indian Mujahideen" claims responsibility for Saturday's serial blasts. Iran announces expansion of its nuclear programme and now possesses 6,000 centrifuges. How Obama's world tour played back home. Mbeki warns Mugabe he may be forced to relinquish power.

"Bodies torn to shreds, pools of blood splattered all over, the air thick with the stench of death and explosives - this was Ahmedabad on Saturday evening after the serial blasts," The Times of India reported. "Some of the most gory sights were played out on the city streets as people tried to come to terms with the worst terror attack in Gujarat's history. "Ironically, civil hospital, where wounds should have been healed, was one of the worst hit. A decapitated head lay near the entrance of the trauma ward, which was splattered with blood. At least eight bodies lay strewn here. "'The terrorists seem to have worked with deadly precision. The terror planners had actually tried to figure out how much time it would take for the injured to reach civil hospital - the biggest and the busiest government-run hospital in the city,' said senior police officials." Time magazine said: "Several TV news stations received an e-mail five minutes before the first blasts in Ahmedabad. The message reportedly had the Indian Mujahideen proclaiming the fact that they were based within the country, claimed sole responsibility for the attacks and asked other organisations like Lashkar-e-Toiba not to take credit. The email purportedly cited a list of grievances against India's Hindu majority, and hinted at more attacks to come. The same group had claimed responsibility for blasts that had killed 63 people in the northwestern city of Jaipur in May this year, as well as serial blasts in the northern cities of Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow in which 13 people were killed in November 2007. "While the credibility of the e-mail has yet to be established, the recent bombings have forced the Indian authorities to face some very uncomfortable facts. First, terrorist groups now have the wherewithal to strike at will and inflict significant damage. The targeting of Bangalore, one of the pivots of India's nascent economy, shows an ability to strategise. Secondly, recent efforts to spruce up intelligence gathering and policing have been entirely inadequate. Despite the security threats festering across the country - there have been 11 major Islamist bombings in the last three years, and over a dozen in the insurgency-ridden northeast this year alone - India's police stand at just 126 officers per 100,000 people. The United Nations norm is 222. The Intelligence Bureau, responsible for internal intelligence gathering, has a sum total of 3,500 field operatives - for a country of 1.1 billion. Finally, the security establishment cannot go on blaming a 'foreign hand' for these attacks. The profusion of such attacks within a short time-frame cannot have been possible without local recruits. India must now face up to a brood of home-grown Islamist terrorists feeding off popular and growing Muslim resentment against the purported injustices and atrocities of the Hindu majority. Indeed, the last three terror attacks have been in states ruled by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - the Hindu right-wing party. The Christian Science Monitor reported: "Ahmedabad, the main city in Gujarat, is especially vulnerable to communal tensions. In 2002, a train fire that killed members of a Hindu nationalist group sparked Hindu-Muslim riots in which over 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, died. "'Await five minutes for the revenge of Gujarat,' read an e-mail sent to television stations, purportedly from the Indian Mujahideen, moments before Saturday's explosions. "But analysts say that stoking communal tensions is not the sole objective of recent attacks. 'These people want to hurt the country in any way possible,' says Ajay Sahni, a terrorism expert at the Institute for Conflict Management in Delhi. 'Causing communal tensions is a secondary objective to that. If I wanted to whip up communal riots I would ensure that only Hindus were killed whereas these attacks are occurring in areas with mixed populations.' Indeed, Saturday's attacks occurred in Ahmedabad's old city, which houses many Muslims." In an editorial, The Times of India said: "Conjecture about whether much must be made about the fact that both Karnataka and Gujarat are ruled by the BJP, sadly, runs rife. To his credit, opposition leader LK Advani has brushed off such conspiracy theories. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was right when he said that those behind the attacks were enemies of humanity. Appeals for calm across the political spectrum - starting with one from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - are welcome as there is no good in pointing fingers at a time when the country is under attack. "It is premature to place blame for the attacks on a particular group, indigenous or otherwise. It is also pointless to replay the refrain of the blame game between state and central intelligence agencies. Terror strike after terror strike, we are fed the same story about how each failed the other. There is clearly a systemic fault in our intelligence and security administration that exposes the public to dangers that could perhaps be avoided. It is an issue that must no doubt be redressed speedily. But it must be acknowledged that securing a country as vast and densely populated as ours is no easy task."

"Iran's president said Saturday his country now possesses 6,000 centrifuges, a significant increase in its nuclear programme that is certain to further rankle the United States and others who fear Tehran is intent on developing weapons," the Associated Press reported. "The new figure is double the 3,000 uranium-enriching machines Iran had previously said it was operating." AFP said: "Senior cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Friday rejected a deadline for Iran to respond to an offer by world powers aimed at resolving the continuing standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme. " 'Now that negotiations are supposed to be held, why are you setting deadlines and giving ultimatums?' Rafsanjani asked in a Friday prayers sermon carried live on state radio. "'Iran is ready to go there and talk - say whatever you have to say there,' said the pragmatic former president who currently heads two of Iran's top clerical and arbitration bodies in Iran. " 'Do not try to find fault. Be patient and let wise people sit down and talk to resolve this issue in the negotiations which have started,' Rafsanjani added, addressing world powers." Reuters reported: "Presidential candidate Barack Obama said President George W Bush's decision to send a senior diplomat to nuclear talks with Iran was a substantive move and should be taken seriously by Tehran. "Obama, a Democrat, has been highly critical in the past of Bush's policies toward Iran and has promised that if elected he would pursue a policy of greater engagement aimed at persuading Tehran to abandon its nuclear enrichment program. "But in a rare signal of solidarity with the current Republican administration, Obama told a news conference in Paris on Friday that Iran should not wait for the next US president to try to reach a deal over its nuclear programme."

"He stood in the shadow of the Temple of Hercules, held forth at the Elysee Palace and convened a one-man news conference here on Saturday outside No 10 Downing Street, all with a simple aim: to make a one-term senator from Illinois look presidential to voters back home in America," reported The New York Times. "But along the way to appearing presidential, did Senator Barack Obama cross a political line - as he and his advisers quietly feared, and some Republicans hoped - by coming across as too presumptuous? "'In terms of raw politics, in the short-term there's just as much downside as upside to a trip like this, even when it's well executed,' Mr Obama said in an interview as he flew here from Paris on the final leg of his trip. 'People at home are worried about gas prices, they're worried about mortgage foreclosures - and for a week they're seeing me traipse around the world? It's easy to paint that as somehow being removed from people's day-to-day problems.' " The Washington Post said: "As Obama moved from Iraq and Afghanistan to Jordan and Israel and then to three European capitals before flying back to Chicago on Saturday night, strategists back home measured the political fallout for the senator from Illinois and for the presumptive Republican nominee John McCain on an almost hourly basis. Their consensus was that the week turned into a near-rout for Obama. "John Weaver, who once was McCain's top political strategist, said his old boss made a big mistake by virtually daring Obama to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, only to see Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki generally embrace the Democrat's plan for withdrawing combat forces when he went there. "'McCain lost the week badly, let's be honest,' Weaver said in a message on Friday. 'John [McCain] is still in striking distance, thanks to his own character, biography and memories of the McCain of previous election cycles. But he cannot afford another week like this one.'"

"The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has been warned by Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, that he faces prosecution for the crimes he has committed during his 28 years in office unless he signs a deal to give up all effective power. "Mbeki, who has done all he can to shield and support Mugabe for the past eight years, has come under overwhelming western pressure and has had to tell Mugabe that he could no longer protect him and his key cronies from being charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC). "The power-sharing talks between Mugabe's Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are shrouded in secrecy. But The Sunday Times has learnt that Mugabe, who has vowed that Tsvangirai will never be in government and that 'only God can remove me from power', faces humiliation over the terms of the deal that he will be forced to sign next month." The New York Times noted: "One of the most remarkable changes to emerge from Zimbabwe's violent election season is that leaders in Zambia and Botswana have resoundingly broken the silence of Mr Mugabe's peers in the region about the human rights abuses committed by his governing party. "Phandu Skelemani, the foreign minister of neighbouring Botswana, which has refused to recognise Mr Mugabe's legitimacy, said in an interview on Wednesday that his country would not be party to what he called 'the raping of democracy' in Zimbabwe."