BHUBANESWAR/NEW DELHI: An Islamist militant group is believed to be behind an attack on a rally by Indian Hindu nationalist politician Narendra Modi that killed six people and wounded more than 80, police said yesterday.
Modi, who has a good chance of becoming India’s next prime minister, is seen as a target of militants who hold him responsible for riots a decade ago during his first term as chief minister of Gujarat state. At least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed in the rioting.
Seven crude bombs went off on Sunday in Bihar state as Modi’s supporters gathered for his rally. He was not near any of the blasts and delivered his speech despite the attack.
Senior police official S N Pradhan said one of two suspects arrested after the blasts had identified a suspected senior member of the Indian Mujahideen militant group, Tehseen Akhtar, as the organiser of the attack.
The National Investigation Agency, India’s top counter terrorism body, is seeking the arrest of the 24-year-old Akhtar in connection with attacks in recent years in the cities of Mumbai and Varanasi and is investigating his role in blasts in Hyderabad city in February. “Because of the Tehseen connection, the entire chain is established,” said Pradhan, a senior police official in Jharkhand state, where the detained suspect is from.
“There is no doubt that it is the work of the Indian Mujahideen.”
Police said the bombers were trying to spark a stampede in the crowd. Heavy loss of life could have inflamed tension, recently simmering again, between majority Hindus and minority Muslims.
The Indian Mujahideen has been accused of dozens of similar bomb attacks over recent years.
The ease with which the bombs were planted around the rally ground, where tens of thousands of people gathered to hear Modi, has raised concern about Modi’s
Leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have called the attack a big security failure and have demanded better protection for him.
There has been no claim of responsibility.
Critics say Modi did not do enough to stop rampaging Hindu mobs in the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
Modi denies any role in the violence and a Supreme Court appointed panel cleared him of wrongdoing.