A 24-Year-old woman software engineer was killed and 14 people injured when two low-intensity bombs went off in quick succession in two coaches (S4, S5) of the Bangalore-Guwahati superfast express train at the Chennai Central railway station on Thursday morning. Officials said all the injured, including two who underwent surgery, are in a “stable” condition.
The train was running an hour-and-a-half late when it pulled into platform 9 at Chennai Central at 7.05 am. The first blast occurred about 10 minutes later. It was followed by a second blast just minutes after, triggering panic among the passengers.
Tamil Nadu intelligence chief DGP Anoop Jaiswal told The Indian Express that “low-intensity IED fitted in pipes, triggered by a timer device” was suspected to have been used. Officials pointed to the use of an ammonium nitrate-based explosive.
“Chennai may not have been the target because the train was running late. Some other location could have been the target,” said Tamil Nadu DGP K Ramanujam. Jaiswal said there were no alerts about a possible terror strike, adding that any speculation at the moment was “premature”.
Sources said a passenger was detained on suspicion as he had provided a false name and address while booking his ticket. A senior Bangalore Police officer said CCTV footage showed the suspect roaming around in the Bangalore station on Wednesday.
READ: Security enhanced in Delhi and Rajasthan after blasts
The victim has been identified as Swathi Parachuri, 24, a software engineer with TCS Bangalore. Swathi, who was in the S5 coach, was on her way home to Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.
Two of the injured, Sumanto Devanath, 37, and an unidentified passenger, are said to be “serious but stable”. Barring one passenger who had injuries on his neck, the rest suffered injuries on their legs. One of the injured, A Anjaneyalu from Ongole, Andhra Pradesh, a software engineer working in Bangalore, said he was lying down on his berth when the explosion hurt both his legs.
All the injured were rushed to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital which is near the station. “We have specialists attending to the patients. The condition of all the injured is stable,” said Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan. The blasts damaged three coaches — S3, S4 and S5. The train finally left the station at 12:15 pm. “We have CCTV footage which will be checked by investigators,” said zonal general manager Rakesh Mishra.
While investigators said it was too early to draw conclusions about the module and the group involved in Thursday’s blast, Intelligence agencies are also looking at the arrest of an alleged ISI spy, Mohammed Zakir Hussain, 37, a Sri Lankan Tamil who was nabbed by the Tamil Nadu police on Tuesday night. Hussain is reported to have claimed that his handler was Amir Zubair Siddiqui, a Pakistani diplomat posted in Colombo who is already under investigation by the NIA.
“A team from Chennai was rushed to gather details about the blasts. We have also learnt about the claims made by the arrested ISI spy and sought details from the Tamil Nadu Police regarding his disclosures on the role of the diplomat. It is possible that a different module was engaged for carrying out the train blasts. We are working with the state police and looking at all possible clues,” said a NIA official.
“As preliminary reports suggest that the bombs were not meant to explode at the railway station, it is possible that they were being couriered to some other place when the explosion took place. However, it will be too early to comment on the targets and reasons,” he said.
The NIA has already sent a request to Sri Lanka for examining Siddiqui, who is suspected to have tasked several modules to carry out a recce of vital installations in south India. The NIA had also named Siddiqui in an FIR last year following the arrest of Thameem Ansari, a resident of Tamil Nadu.
Hussain, a resident of Kandy in Sri Lanka, was alleged to have been given the task of circulating counterfeit currency in Tamil Nadu. At the time of his arrest, he was reportedly carrying fake notes and other classified documents.
Meanwhile, the political echoes of the blasts were soon heard in the state. State BJP president Pon Radhakrishnan alleged a plot against the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, linking the blasts to Modi’s campaign rallies in south Andhra Pradesh on Thursday. However, even if the train was running on time, it would have been near the Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border, still some distance and time away from the campaign venues.
DMK president M Karunanidhi said the blasts could have been prevented if the police had acted promptly after arresting Hussain. “But Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who is in charge of the police department, is back in Kodanadu,” said Karunanidhi. The CM has been at her Kodanadu Estate residence in the Nilgiris district since last Sunday.
Other parties like the DMDK, PMK and MDMK also condemned the incident and alleged that the state government had failed to ensure the safety of the people.
Jayalalithaa, who has ordered an inquiry by the Crime Branch CID, asked the people of Tamil Nadu not to panic and assured that the police were stepping up security across the state. She also deputed two ministers and senior officials to supervise the relief measures. Security has been beefed up across the state, especially at sensitive installations including airports, railway stations and major bus terminals.
In Bangalore, Additional DGP M N Reddi said security has been beefed up in all railway stations in the state. “There is an alert in the state following the blasts… Investigations should reveal if the explosives were loaded in the train in Bangalore or Nanded. We have collected the CCTV footage,” he said.
— with ENS, Bangalore
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