| A live bomb at a Lucknow court being defused. (PTI)
Lucknow, Nov. 23: Synchronised blasts tore through civil court complexes in three Uttar Pradesh cities just as Friday prayers ended today, killing 15 people, several of them lawyers who had refused to defend terrorists.
Some 80 others were injured in the six blasts in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad, carried out between 1.18pm and 1.33pm with timer-fixed bombs planted in new bicycles.
The Union home ministry avoided naming any militant group but police sources suspect the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul Jihadi Islami.
Intelligence officials said the crude, home-made ammonium nitrate bombs suggested the job was outsourced to one of the “hundreds” of shadowy, small outfits mushrooming across India.
Near-stampedes broke out around the blast spots where many injured, bleeding profusely, ran helter-skelter while others lay on the ground crying for help. TV showed a dead lawyer — one of the four killed in the blasts — dressed in traditional black clothes.
The choice of cities and courts points to revenge. Terrorists who had carried out attacks on temples or the Ayodhya complex are facing trial in these three civil courts. This week, lawyers at the Lucknow court had thrashed three suspected Jaish-e-Mohammed militants accused of planning to kidnap Rahul Gandhi.
State bar association spokesman Padam Kriti said the state’s lawyers had decided earlier this year not to defend terror suspects. “That may be the reason for this attack.”
Three bombs killed 11 people and injured 65 in Varanasi. Among the dead was an 11-year-old, Sanjeev Kumar.
A pair of bombs killed four in Faizabad, Ayodhya’s twin city, and a single blast left two injured in Lucknow, where a second bomb was defused.
“The bombs and timers were kept in coloured cotton bags rigged to bicycles,” said Brij Lal, additional director-general (law and order).
The blasts took place outside the courtrooms, in the bustling courtyards lined by small lawyers’ “offices” in makeshift shacks. “It was lunchtime and most lawyers were in the courtyard,” a lawyer said in Lucknow.
“I had just left shed number 42 to meet clients when I heard the deafening blast,” said Avdhesh Kumar, a Faizabad lawyer. “The area was engulfed in black smoke. Glass shards and broken benches were strewn around.”
The police tonight released the sketch of a suspect in the Faizabad blast based on witness descriptions.
Lucknow police are looking for Shamim, a friend of Harkat militant Waliullah who was arrested after the March 2006 Varanasi blasts. A cycle shop owner is believed to have identified Shamim, who regularly meets Waliullah in jail, as a recent buyer.
A red alert has been issued in the state, where the BJP has called a bandh tomorrow. Chief minister Mayavati has accused the Centre of an intelligence failure.