x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Three killed as another explosion rocks Delhi

In an instant, a street famous for its flowers became an all-too familiar scene of broken glass, blood and chaos.

NEW DELHI // In an instant, a street famous for its flowers became an all-too familiar scene of broken glass, blood and chaos. Yesterday's blast in a New Delhi market was the sixth bomb to explode in the capital in the last two weeks - with each attack occurring on a Saturday, and always in busy markets. But the blast took a tragic twist, as police said two men in black hurled a lunch box into the crowd from a motorcycle shortly after 2pm, killing a young schoolboy who picked up the container, and at least two others. Eighteen were rushed to hospital, many in critical condition.

HGS Dhaliwal, a deputy commissioner of police, described the explosive as a crudely built, low-intensity one that went off in Mehrauli, a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood known for its wholesale flower shops. For Mr Dhaliwal, it was becoming an all too familiar drill, as the senior police officer rushed to the scene of similar blasts in Greater Kailash just two weeks earlier. On that occasion, two bombs had exploded on either end of the upscale south-end market. While no one was killed, co-ordinated blasts in two other neighbourhoods claimed 24 lives that evening. Yesterday's attack shattered a fragile sense of peace in the capital, following the high-profile arrests of several suspected militants in Rajasthan, Gujarat and New Delhi.

In a dramatic raid last week, police descended on a south New Delhi apartment, killing the alleged mastermind of the New Delhi bombings. But triumph proved fleeting as the capital returned to a state of high alert, with a bolstered police presence and a scramble to arrest potential witnesses. The likeliest suspect is a shadowy group called the Indian Mujahideen - an Islamist organisation that took responsibility for the last Delhi bombings, along with those in Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad over the summer.

In all, nearly 150 people have been killed in India's summer of the bomb. And experts suggest unless the Indian government changes its attitude towards militants - and toughens up its antiterrorism stance - that toll will only rise. "The terrorists appear to have the upper hand because the state is unable to handle the fallout," said Seema Mustafa, a Delhi-based political commentator. "In India, the fallout is equally as important as the blasts themselves."

Leaders of India's opposition party also seized the occasion to criticise the government demanding the resignation of Shivraj Patil, the home minister. "Instead of changing his clothes thrice, he should have taken actions like discussing the matter with [the] public," said VK Malhotra, referring to rumours that Mr Patil was changing his clothes frequently during the media barrage after the first Delhi attack two weeks ago. Mr Malhotra, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, is also running for the chief ministerial position in upcoming elections. The major thrust of the party's electoral plank is reintroducing tough antiterrorism legislation that was repealed by the government under Manmohan Singh, the prime minister.

Meanwhile, other Indian states also issued alerts yesterday, bolstering their police presence in metropolises, such as Mumbai, and urging residents to be vigilant. "I just hope it doesn't become a way of life, where we will be hearing this news every 15 days," said Vinita Nath, 42, a New Delhi resident. The fact that the blasts have taken place in markets across New Delhi is particularly disturbing for a city that spends so much of its time in public places.

"Delhi basically has one pastime, which is shopping," Ms Nath said. "It's really bringing life to a standstill." ccotroneo@thenational.ae