Patna bombings: outlawed Islamist group blamed for fatal blasts

Suspect told police that Indian Mujahideen told him to carry out bombings that killed seven and wounded 83

 

  • Associated Press in Patna
  • theguardian.com,  Monday 28 October 2013 07.08 EDT
Indian security officials examine debris

Indian security agency officials examine debris as they search for evidence at the site of one of the blasts. Photograph: Strdel/AFP/Getty Images

An outlawed Islamist group has been blamed for a series of deadly bomb blasts near an Indian opposition rally, in a grim prelude to national elections next spring.

No group has claimed responsibility for the six small blasts, which killed seven people and wounded 83 just before the rally by the Hindu nationalist opposition leader Narendra Modi on Sunday.

However, one of two suspects arrested after the blasts told police that the outlawed Indian Mujahideen had instructed him and others to carry out the bombings as hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the rally in a central park in Bihar’s state capital of Patna, police said.

“The main motive was to create panic and cause a stampede,” said Manu Maharaj, a senior police official in Patna. Officials from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) said they kept news of the blasts quiet until after the rally to avoid panicking the crowd.

Modi is waging an aggressive campaign to become India‘s next prime minister and critics worry that his rise could exacerbate sectarian tensions between India’s majority Hindus and its 138 million Muslims.

After the blasts, police detained three men in eastern Bihar state and three more in neighbouring Jharkhand, where officers raided a home and seized “a huge amount of explosives” along with bomb-making materials.

Police charged two of the suspects with criminal conspiracy and mass murder. The other four were released after questioning.

The Indian Mujahideen, which has been linked to the banned Pakistan-based Islamist rebel group Lashkar-e-Taiba, has not claimed responsibility for Sunday’s blasts. India’s hardline Islamic organisation Jamaat-e-Islami, meanwhile, denounced the attack and demanded swift punishment for those involved.

The death toll rose to seven on Monday as several people died from their injuries. Dozens more were still being treated in a Patna hospital, including several in critical condition.

Modi offered condolences to the victims in a Twitter message after the rally.

Bihar’s top elected official, the chief minister Nitish Kumar, broke with the BJP six months ago over Modi’s candidacy, which he suggested could upset communal relations within India’s secular democracy of 1.2 billion people.

Modi, who has served three terms as Gujarat’s leader, is credited with turning his western state into a haven for investment and industry. But for years Modi has dodged allegations that he and his Hindu fundamentalist party colleagues looked the other way and even encouraged marauding mobs of Hindus as they killed and burned their way through Muslim neighbourhoods in Gujarat in 2002, leaving more than 1,100 people dead in one of India’s worst outbursts of communal violence.

No evidence directly links Modi to the violence, and he says he has no responsibility for the killings. The supreme court criticised his government, however, for failing to prosecute Hindu rioters who justified the rampage as revenge for a train fire that killed 60 Hindus.

An independent inquiry in 2006 determined that the fire was an accident, but a 2008 state government commission said it was planned by Muslims.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/28/patna-bombings-outlawed-islamic-group-blamed

 

India school lunch deaths: pesticide found in cooking oil

July 20, 2013 14:36

The children died after eating a free school lunch of lentils, potatoes and rice in the Bihar region on Tuesday.

pesticide india lunches

School lunch that killed 23 children in India was found to have contained agricultural pesticide. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

A powerful insecticide killed 23 young Indian students last week, a forensic report has found.

The children died after eating a free school lunch of lentils, potatoes and rice in the Bihar region on Tuesday.

The industrial-strength insecticide was found in the cooking oil used to make the meal. It was said to be five times stronger than commercial chemical insecticides.

“The report has found organophospharus in oil samples collected from the school where the mid-day meal was prepared and consumed by the children,” said Ravinder Kumar, a senior police officer in Bihar state capital Patna, according to AFP.

“It was observed by the scientists of the Forensic Science Laboratory that the poisonous substance in the (food) oil samples was more than five times the commercial preparation available in the market.”

More from GlobalPost: Poverty, not poison, killed Indian school lunch kids

The victims, aged four to 12, were buried in the playfield near the primary school that served the lunch.

Another two dozen children are still being treated in hospital.

The deaths sparked protests in the region.

Authorities are still investigating how the chemical got into the cooking oil. No arrests have been made.

The lunch was part of India’s Mid-Day Meal Scheme, which feeds 120 million children – often their only meal of the day.

The plan seeks to alleviate malnutrition and boost school attendance rates.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/130720/india-school-lunch-deaths-pesticide-found-cooking-oi