The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Masjid opens, streets hold peace

Hyderabad, May 19: A stone-throwing mob injured two policemen but a tense Hyderabad stayed largely peaceful today with deserted streets swarming with police in riot gear and paramilitary jawans.

At least 150 people joined the morning prayers at Mecca Masjid, led by Moulana Khaliluddin, who said: “Prayers were not stopped in this mosque even at the time of the clash between the Indian forces and the Nizam’s troops half a century ago.”

Agency reports said policemen had at first blocked people at the mosque’s entrance. But the worshippers stood their ground and formed a long queue, prompting the police to relent.

The day’s lone attack on the security forces came in the Mogulpura locality — one of the two sites of yesterday’s police firing that killed five — from a mob returning from a blast victim’s funeral.

“Four rounds of tear gas and eight rounds of firing in the air took place to contain the mob,” an officer said.

There was no communal violence with the security forces preventing rallies, though youths criss-crossed the lanes and by-lanes with black and green flags, shouting slogans against the police and the government.

“Everything is under control and we don’t intend to impose a curfew as normality is returning,” chief minister Y.S.R. Reddy said.

The bandh call by the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Musalmeen shut down shops, businesses and government offices, and cars and public buses stayed off the roads.

But the three-day religious congregation, Izemaat-Tabligh-e-Jamaat, kicked off — though with only about two lakh participants instead of the expected 15 lakh.

The chief minister dismissed allegations of a security lapse. He said his government’s decision in 2004 to withdraw the Rapid Action Force and mounted police from Mecca Masjid and stop the video-graphing of worshippers had come under public pressure.

“They (Muslim leaders) said we were treating the community like criminals by taking pictures of all the worshippers every Friday,” Reddy said.

Union home minister Shivraj Patil, who visited the blast site and met the victims’ families with Reddy, denied that there was an intelligence failure. The Centre had information that terrorists were likely to strike at a place of worship, he admitted. But “we did not know the time and place”, Patil told reporters.

In contrast to the way Indian officials earlier blamed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence as soon as any terrorist attack took place, Patil was cautious on the subject of a foreign hand.

“We should not keep blaming.… We cannot say anything unless a final conclusion is reached,” he said.

He also would not link yesterday’s blast with last September’s bombing at a Malegaon mosque that killed 31.

“Let us not jump to conclusions. The Malegaon case is being examined and this case will also be investigated.”

Patil said the Centre was not against handing the case over to the CBI. “If the state government wants it, and if it is necessary, there will be no difficulty….”

But he felt the police should be allowed to complete their investigations first: “If you send every case in the country to the CBI, there will be delay in concluding the probe.”

Reddy, present at the news conference, said his government had no objection to “either a CBI inquiry or a judicial probe or both”.

The bombs were a mix of TNT and RDX stuffed in steel pipes and packed in steel “tiffin boxes” along with a mobile phone, the police said.

They had been folded in two-day-old Telugu newspapers and kept in black executive bags.

A Kinley water bottle, a packet of biscuits and sachets of Eno (an antidote to acidity and gas) was kept in each bag to avert suspicion.

The one that exploded was planted below a seat next to the pond — it blew the five-inch concrete slab to bits.

The second was placed 100 metres away, between two rows of worshippers in a mound of white caps, proving the terrorists had been at the prayer.

The third bag hung from the metal railings at the mosque entrance.

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