Mumbai, Dec. 2: A powerful bomb ripped through a parked public bus at Ghatkopar railway station this evening, killing at least three persons and sending the city into a panic as memories of the 1993 blasts came flooding back.
No passengers were in the double-decker bus, on route 416 from Ghatkopar station to Amrut Nagar, when the bomb went off around 6.40, but the impact was so powerful that people wandering nearby bore the brunt.
The bus was blown to bits while bodies of the dead were found several metres away from the site. Twenty-eight people were injured, six critically.
Though police and the Maharashtra government were initially reticent, minister of state for home Kripa Shankar Singh confirmed that the explosion was caused by a powerful bomb placed in the bus and that “terrorist sabotage cannot be ruled out”. He said a statewide alert has been sounded and claimed that apart from the panic, “everything is under control”.
Fortunately though, casualties were limited as people were waiting to board the bus. Reports say at the time of the blast, only two persons — possibly the driver and the conductor — were inside. Though one of the victims has been identified as Kumar Raju Ranjan, it is yet to be ascertained if he was the driver or the conductor.
Unconfirmed reports also suggested that there was still an unclaimed bag inside the vehicle. Security and bomb squad personnel who arrived with sniffer dogs have cordoned off the area.
Caught unawares, the police stuck to their position that they had no prior intelligence report that could be linked to the incident. “We had no intelligence (associated with the blast),” assistant commissioner of police Ahmed Javed said. “Special police units were at work tracking anything that could be of importance in the case.”
However, there were reports about two months ago of five Afghan nationals entering Mumbai and “scanning” possible targets. The taxi driver who drove them around the city is believed to have given exact descriptions of each of them and also told the police which spots they asked to be shown. Among the five places the men visited were Sena Bhavan, Mantralaya —the secretariat — and the popular Siddhivinayak temple.
The driver went to three police stations before he could finally manage to file his statement on the “suspicious characters”. The police had later launched a hunt for the men but could not trace them.