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India

India is on high alert after Hyderabad blasts

Major cities across India have been put on high alert after twin blasts killed at least 16 people in the southern city of Hyderabad.

The high-intensity bombs, which were placed on bicycles, went off on Thursday night local time at two places about 150 metres apart - opposite a busy bus station and outside a popular roadside cafe in the heart of the city. Hundreds were milling around during rush hour and there was a massive stampede as people ran for cover.

Ambulances and police vehicles rushed to the area and the hundreds of injured were taken to nearby hospitals.

It emerged on Friday that the police had been warned of a possible attack months ago.

Consequently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress-led government came under severe criticism from opposition parties for failing to protect the Indian population.

Dilsukh Nagarm in Hyderabad February 21, 2013 REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

The bombs were placed on bicycles in a busy marketplace

There was a furore in parliament after Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde made a statement saying that the government was committed to fighting terrorism.

"If they had specific information, what were the central government and the state government doing? Why was nothing done to prevent such an incident" asked Sushma Swaraj, the opposition BJP's leader in parliament.

"The government will have to explain if the city was compromised because danger signs were ignored or missed," D Raja of the Communist Party of India told DW. "Innocent people are paying with their lives for allegedly major lapses."

Worst attack in two years

The blasts are the worst to hit India since July 2011 when 25 people were killed as three bombs ripped through Mumbai. In September 2011, 13 people died in a blast outside the High Court in New Delhi.

They follow months of minor violence and a series of hate speeches in Hyderabad, a major IT hub and India's sixth largest city, which is not a stranger to terror. In 2007, an attack on the historic Mecca Masjid left over 50 people dead.

The attacks also come less than a fortnight after the contentious hanging of Afzal Guru for his involvement in an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001. India was already on alert after protests broke out in Indian-administered Kashmir.

"There has been no word yet as to who was responsible for the attacks but these blasts have the signature of the Islamic militant group, the Indian Mujahideen," a top official of the National Investigation Agency told DW on condition of anonymity. "This home-grown terror outfit is currently the prime suspect."

The group has claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks in major cities, including New Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad since 2008.

Dilsukh Nagarm in Hyderabad February 21, 2013 REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

Hundreds were injured

Need to boost security forces

Analysts say there is an urgent need to strengthen the country's security forces and there has been little improvement since the Mumbai siege left 166 dead and over 300 injured in 2008.

"Many things have happened," said Ajay Sahni, a counter-terrorism expert. "There seems to be a greater awareness of the risks. Some patchy improvements have occurred in certain sections of the security system. But none of these have reached the critical mass necessary to make India more secure against a massive terror strike at present."

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