| The blast site at Lumbini Park. (AP)
Hyderabad, Aug. 25: Near-simultaneous blasts targeted weekend crowds at a family snacks shop and an amusement park in Hyderabad this evening, killing 41 people and putting the political squabbles in Delhi in perspective.
At least 70 others were injured at downtown Gokul Chat Bhandar and the upscale Lumbini Park auditorium — located metres from the state secretariat — as terror returned to a city where bombs had slain 11 at the 313-year-old Mecca Masjid three months ago.
Human torsos, heads and limbs were scattered around the eatery, where police struggled to piece the 34 bodies together with the help of anxious people looking for relatives among the victims.
“It’s ghastly… the bodies have been thrown around like popcorn,” shuddered collector M.V. Chandravadan.
The 7.45pm auditorium blast ripped off the middle row of seats during a laser show, killing seven people, including four among a group of 50 college students from Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar.
“I saw people flying along with their chairs,” said Vineet, one of the student visitors.
The mayhem comes at a time when the obsessive political debate on the nuclear deal may have shifted the focus from the state’s responsibility to ensure citizens’ safety. Those opposed to the agreement might, however, cite the tragedy to argue that the closer India moves to the US, the higher the terror threat will rise.
The Prime Minister, President and Sonia Gandhi have condemned the bombings.
Officers said two bombs had gone off at the auditorium, built on the banks of the Hussein Sagar near the seat of power, 1km from the Assembly and 500 yards from the MLAs’ hostel.
Two unexploded “tiffin box” bombs, fitted with timers, were also found at the site and two others in city cinemas that were quickly evacuated.
The police claimed to have found and defused another 10 such bombs at “public places” – which they didn’t name. A source said one was planted under a footbridge in busy Bilsukh Nagar and was timed to go off at 10.45pm.
Similar “tiffin box” bombs were used in the Mecca Masjid, too, the only difference being that the timers this time were not cellphones. The police suspect the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul Jehadi Islami, blamed for the mosque blast in May.
Investigators have found traces of RDX at the Chat Bhandar, a popular north Indian restaurant in a commercial district, located 5km from Lumbini Park.
Fifteen of the injured are critical, and police commissioner Balwinder Singh said the death toll wasn’t final. “We are still counting and taking the injured to hospital.”
Traffic jams slowed down the ambulances — and public buses and autos — that the police marshalled to rush the injured to hospital.
Home minister Shivraj Patil is expected in Hyderabad tomorrow. Security has been tightened in the communally sensitive city — where five people died in clashes after the mosque bombing — ahead of the 10,000 weddings scheduled tomorrow.