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India Terror Strikes Varanasi Again; India On High Alert


Apr 3, 2005

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow and Vicky Nanjappa

One infant was killed and 37 others, including six foreigners, were injured in a blast that rocked the crowded Shitla Ghat bank of the Ganga river during evening prayers in Varanasi, about 300 km from Lucknow, on Tuesday evening.

The victim, identified as eleventh-month old Swastika Sharma, was at the blast site with her mother for the prayers. She fell from the lap of her mother after the blast and succumbed to injuries at the Marwari Hospital in the city, officials said.

Banned terror outfit Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack, and "attributed" the strike to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.

"The blast took place while hundreds of people had gathered at the Shitla Ghat for the routine evening 'aarti' (prayer)", Uttar Pradesh Additional Director General of Police Brij Lal told mediapersons in Lucknow, barely an hour after the incident.

Even as the forensics team was pressed into service to probe the Varanasi blast, which also triggered a stampede, investigators have found two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from the blast site.

The first IED was recovered from a milk container which triggered off the explosion while the other was found at a dust bin at the blast site.

Hospital officials said 37 people were injured, including six foreigners. Officials said 20 injured were admitted to BHU Hospital, 13 in Kabir Chaura Hospital and four in Heritage Hospital.

Among the injured foreigners was an Italian, Alexandeo Mantello, who was now out of danger, police said. According to hospital sources, the others were French national Rachael, Ki Taro from Japan, South Korean Wan Sen Kim, Italian national Lydia de Mayo and German national Ozel.

Forensic teams were airlifted from Agra and rushed to Varanasi for detailed

investigations, the ADG said. "They collected some samples from the blast site, as they arrived late on Tuesday night," officials said.

The material and especially the IED will be used to find more details about the bomb. However, there is a practical problem and unlike investigations in the past the signature of an attack cannot be determined.

Terror groups seem to have restructured their strategy in Tuesday's blast and tend not to use the same mechanism in every blast since they have realised that then they would be leaving a trail, said experts.

The finding of the IED and the material around the site give the indication that it was not a rookie job. The bomb was assembled by a professional and was aimed more at creating panic and also sending out a message, sources added.

Meanhwile, some people suffered injuries due to the blast while some were hurt during the stampede which occurred due to the collapse of a railing. Some of the injured persons were reportedly hurt by metal pellets.

Eyewitnesses said a loud noise which also shook some nearby buildings was heard when the explosion occurred at around 6:20 pm IST on Tuesday.



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