(Two years after cycle bombs killed 31 people in Malegaon, the textile town in northern Maharashtra was struck again, this time by bombs believed to have been placed on a bike)
Mateen Hafeez & Yogesh Naik | TNNMalegaon: Two mysterious blasts in the heart of Malegaon killed seven persons, including a 12-year-old girl and a woman, on Monday night and injured 30.
The blasts occurred outside the SIMI office at about 9.30 pm when a Ramzan special prayer was being offered in all mosques across the textile town.
Two of those wounded were reportedly injured when police opened fire to disperse a mob that had barged into the Azad Nagar police chowky located barely 15 metres from the blast site. Three policemen were also reportedly hurt. Curfew has been imposed in central Malegaon.
The wounded, among them a 16-year-old student, Azhar Ahmed from Islampura, were rushed to nearby hospitals.
Inspector general of police S P Gupta (Nasik range) said it appeared to be a lowintensity IED blast. Senior police officers had earlier described these as cylinder blasts while angry locals insisted that bombs had been set off. A Hero Honda motorbike, which was parked at the blast site, was completely mangled.
The historic Bhikku Chowk area in which the blasts occurred is located among three mosques and is barely 300 metres away from Mushwerath Chowk where four powerful cycle bombs had exploded in September 2006, killing 31 people and injuring 297. Nine SIMI suspects had been arrested in those blasts.
Additional SP (Malegaon) Sanjay Patil said the blasts took place on a motorcycle. “Soon a huge mob gathered and pelted stones at the police. We fired five rounds in retaliation. The crowd prevented the police from entering the area. There is tension and we have summoned additional forces. The mob attacked us brutally,’’ he added.
Four companies of the State Reserve Police have been deployed in the troubled area. Malegaon sub-divisional magistrate Ajay More said that the situation on Monday night was quite tense. “Three policemen, including an IPS probationer Viresh Prabhu, are injured. Prabhu was hit by a stone and has a big gash on his head. We have admitted the policemen to Wadia Hospital,’’ he said.
Residents of Malegaon have alleged that Monday’s blasts were a conspiracy to disturb the law and order situation two days prior to Eid. “I saw people running helter-skelter on the road and youths taking the injured to the hospital,’’ said Khaleel Ahmed who lives in the vicinity.
This area is near Anjuman Chowk, which happens to be Malegoan’s women’s market. Thousands of women were shopping at the time of the blasts. The SIMI office had been functional until the outfit was banned on October 24, 2001. Bhikku Chowk also houses about six tea stalls.
A team of forensic experts from Nashik is headed for Malegaon to gather evidence. A team from the anti-terrorism squad has also arrived in Malegaon, ATS chief Hemant Karkare said.
The Times of India, September 30, 2008