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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Minor blast near Israel Embassy in Delhi, note on spot suggests an Iranian ‘link’

No one was injured in the explosion, which took place on the 29th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Israel.

Written by Shubhajit Roy , Mahender Singh Manral | New Delhi |
Updated: January 30, 2021 9:56:28 am
delhi blast, delhi bomb blast, bomb blast delhi, israel embassy blast, delhi high alert, police, indian express newsAt the site of the blast on Friday. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

A crude bomb went off near the Embassy of Israel on Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road in New Delhi on Friday evening, shattering the windscreens of three cars on the road, police said.

No one was injured in the explosion, which took place on the 29th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Israel.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke to his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi soon after the incident and assured him of “fullest protection” to Israel’s mission and its diplomats in India.

delhi blast, delhi bomb blast, bomb blast delhi, israel embassy blast, delhi high alert, police, indian express news Tight security outside the Israel Embassy. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

The bomb appeared to have been planted in a flower pot on the road divider, police said. A letter in an envelope addressed “to Israel Embassy ambassador” has been found at the spot, police sources said.

The letter contains a threat, and describes the explosion as a “trailer”, the sources said. It also refers to two “Iranian martyrs”, Qasem Soleimani and Dr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the sources said.

Maj Gen Soleimani, who was assassinated in a United States drone strike in January 2020, was Iran’s most powerful general, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Fakhrizadeh, who was assassinated in November last year, was Iran’s top nuclear scientist. Tehran believes he was killed by Israel using a remote-control weapon.

delhi blast, delhi bomb blast, bomb blast delhi, israel embassy blast, delhi high alert, police, indian express news The bomb appeared to have been planted in a flower pot on the road divider, police said. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

Earlier on February 13, 2012, Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua and an Indian driver of an Embassy vehicle were among four people injured after a magnetic bomb stuck to the vehicle went off in the capital.

An Iranian hand was alleged in that incident as well; Iranian officials had, however, denied the accusation.

Police on Friday evening took footage from two security cameras installed at one of the gates of the Embassy and opposite the building.

“Forensic experts have found broken pieces of a cold drink can and ball bearings from the spot. Prime facie it appears that explosives and ball bearings were stuffed in the can. It was planted in such a manner that the impact was felt towards the road. The ball bearings hit the cars. Police have not found any device or battery at the spot,” a source said.

Additional PRO (Delhi Police) Anil Mittal said a low-intensity improvised device went off outside 5 Abdul Kalam Road near Jindal House at 5.05 pm. The President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, and the three Service Chiefs were a few kilometres away on Rajpath at the time, attending the Beating Retreat ceremony.

“No injury to any person is there, nor was any damage to property witnessed except window panes of three vehicles parked nearby. Initial impressions suggest a mischievous attempt to create a sensation,” Mittal said.

Jaishankar said India was taking the incident “very seriously”.

“Spoke just now to Israeli FM Gabi Ashkenazi about the explosion outside the Israeli Embassy. We take this very seriously. Assured him of the fullest protection for the Embassy and Israeli diplomats,” the Minister posted on Twitter. “Matter is under investigation and no effort will be spared to find the culprits,” he said.

On his part, Ashkenazi tweeted: “The Indian FM assured me that the Indian authorities are committed to the security of all Israeli diplomatic staff and will continue to act resolutely to locate all those involved in the explosion. I thanked him and promised full cooperation and any help required from Israel.”

Sources said Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla too spoke with his Israeli counterpart Alon Ushpitz, and the MEA’s Secretary (Consular, Passport and Visa division) Sanjay Bhattacharyya spoke with the Israeli Ambassador in India Ron Malka.

In a statement, the Israeli foreign ministry said all its diplomats and embassy staff in New Delhi were “safe and sound”, and “there are no casualties and no harm was done to the (Embassy) building”.

Sources in the Indian security establishment said the bomb was made with “locally available” low intensity explosives, whose exact nature would, however, be determined only after forensic examination. “Given the importance of the day (29 years of India-Israel relations) it appears the idea was more to send a message than to cause any real damage. However, it is a properly made IED. It appears to be the handiwork of some self-styled terror group or a lone wolf,” a senior security establishment officer said.

Sources said intelligence agencies had issued an alert on January 23 about a possible terrorist attack on Jews and Israelis from elements linked to the Islamic State.

Delhi Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava visited the spot and told reporters that a case had been registered, and the matter was being investigated by the Special Cell. Officials said an alert has been issued at all airports, important installations, and government buildings, and enhanced security measures have been put in place.

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