| Policemen mill around the blast site near Charminar in Hyderabad. (AFP)
Hyderabad, May 18 (PTI): A powerful crude bomb exploded during Friday prayers at the historic Mecca Mosque here today, killing five persons and injuring 30 others, including two children, and officials said the attack appeared to have a terror link.
Two live bombs were also detected at the mosque in the in the communally sensitive Charminar area of the old city soon after the blast and were defused. The explosion occurred at 1.30 pm in an area where ablutions are performed as thousands of people were offering prayers at the 300-year-old mosque built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta said in Delhi that the blast appeared to have a terror link while chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy said it was an act of “intentional sabotage” by anti-social elements opposed to communal amity. Many were taken unawares when the explosion took place, scaring hundreds of pigeons that took to the skies. People then ran helter-skelter across the mosque’s courtyard, trying to get to the closest exit.
Some, who were bleeding profusely, were helped in getting out of the mosque. The injured, placed on makeshift stretchers, were rushed to the nearby Osmania and other hospitals in ambulances and private vehicles.
A posse of policemen that rushed to the scene faced an angry crowd, which pelted stones at them and shops in the vicinity. Police resorted to a baton-charge and used teargas to disperse the people.
State home minister K. Jana Reddy was stopped from entering the mosque by a crowd that shut its green wooden doors on his face. The rapid action force was deployed in sensitive areas of the city to maintain peace. A high alert was sounded across Andhra Pradesh as well as Mumbai and Delhi.
Reddy, who was in Delhi, said five persons were killed and seven to eight were injured. The explosion was caused by a crude bomb, Union home minister Shivraj Patil told reporters after he spoke to chief minister Reddy.
Reddy announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the dead and Rs 20,000 to those hurt. Good medical treatment would be given to the injured, he added. Condemning the bomb blast, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony.