Jaipur, May 14: Terror struck the Pink City for the first time this evening, as a series of seven powerful blasts were triggered in a span of 12 minutes in crowded markets and near religious places, killing at least 67 people and injuring nearly 200 others. State Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria and hospital sources confirmed the number of fatalities.
Apart from the Sawai Madhav Singh Hospital, where 55 bodies were kept in the mortuary, arrangements for treatment and post-mortems of the victims were also made at the Santokhba Durlabhji Hospital and Sanganeri Gate Mahila Hospital, state Health Minister Narpat Singh Rajvi said. The condition of 20 injured, who were admitted to SMS hospital, was stated to be critical.
Rajasthan Director General of Police A S Gill said nobody had so far claimed responsibility for the explosions but prima facie they appeared to be the handiwork of some terror outfits. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who was in Jodhpur, immediately rushed back to the state capital after hearing news of the blasts and spoke to senior police officials regarding the incident.
According to police, the blasts occurred at seven places while a live bomb was defused at one place. The blasts occurred between 1935 hrs and 1947 hrs near religious places in Chandpol, Hawamahal, Sanganeri Gate, near City Kotwali, Maniharon Ka Rasta, Manak Chowk Khanda and LMB Hotel Johri Bazar areas.
At least three blasts took place near religious places where a large number of devotees were present to offer obeisance in the evening. The nature of the bombs and explosives could not be ascertained immediately. Most of the bombs were planted in vehicles, including cars, auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws.
The state government announced a relief of Rs five lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed, Rs one lakh for those critically wounded and Rs 25,000 for the other injured.
High alert across the country
A high alert was sounded and security heightened across various states in the wake of the blasts. In Delhi, intelligence sources said Bangladesh-based militant organisation HUJI was suspected to be behind the Jaipur serial blasts.
They said HUJI had reportedly penetrated the Indian hinterland and had sleeper cells in many towns and cities. President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh denounced the blasts, terming them as reprehensible, and expressed grief at the huge loss of lives. While deploring the blasts, Ms Patil requested people to maintain peace and harmony.
Dr Singh assured full support to the Rajasthan government and assistance to the affected families. He also spoke to Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over the telephone and offered all possible assistance in probing the explosions. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who was on a visit to the North East, rushed back to the national capital tonight in the wake of the serial blasts.
Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi denounced the blasts and condoled the tragic loss of lives, calling it a crime against humanity. The BJP said the spurt in terror attacks was a direct fallout of ''a weak Prime Minister and a cowardly Home Minister''.
The United States also condemned the blasts, saying there could be no justification for such a murderous assault on innocent people. US Ambassador to India David Mulford, while describing the bombings as ''vicious'', expressed deepest sympathies with the victims' families.
Panic gripped the entire walled city after the blasts and rampage broke out as people started running helter skelter for their homes. Shopkeepers closed their shutters in panic in the walled city market.
The Rapid Action Force (RAF) has been deployed at various points in the city as a precautionary measure. Roads leading to the scenes of the blasts were sealed off and people were advised to stay indoors. There were traffic jams at several points.