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2006 Varanasi bombings
Location Varanasi, India
Date 7 March 2006 (UTC+5.5)
Target Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple and Varanasi Cantonment Railway Station
Attack type Bombing
Death(s) 28
Injured 101
Perpetrator(s) Lashkar-e Kahar/Qahab
Location of Varanasi in India
Map of blast locations

The 2006 Varanasi bombings were a series of bombings that occurred across the Hindu holy city of Varanasi in India on 7 March 2006. At least 28 people are reported to have been killed and as many as 101 others were injured[1].

Contents

Blasts

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Blast at the Temple

The blasts occurred nearly simultaneously shortly after 6:00 p.m. Indian Standard Time (12:30 p.m. UTC). The first blast took place at 6:20 p.m at the crowded Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple near the Banaras Hindu University. Hundreds of pilgrims were in temple as it was a Tuesday, believed to be particularly holy by the devotees of Hanuman, a deity at the temple. The bomb was placed in a container near a gate at the temple where women usually sit.[2]

Blast at the station

One other blast followed at the Varanasi Cantonment Railway Station — It occurred in the waiting area next to the travel office. Initially another blast was reported inside the stationary Shivganga Express bound for Delhi, however this was later discounted. (The Shivganga express departure was delayed by 2 hours, eventually arriving in Delhi 4 hours late but intact). Six bombs were reported defused from other areas in the city, including a restaurant frequented by foreigners, in the vicinity of the railway station.[3]

Timing of the blasts

It is conjectured that the date and time of the explosions was selected for causing maximum damage. The CBSE and ISC Examinations (India's school leaving examinations) were in progress and therefore there were many students and worshippers at the temple when the bombs exploded during the Aarti ceremony. Tuesday was also a holy day of the deity at the temple. It is further conjectured that the bomb at the railway station was orchestrated to coincide with the throng of passengers waiting for Shiv Ganga express.

7 March 2006 Varanasi bombings Casualties
Place Deaths Injured Sources
Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple blast 10 40 (Rediff)
Varanasi railway station blast 5 20 (Rediff)

Rescue and relief operations

  • The railway ministry announced ex-gratia of IN Rs 1,00,000 to the next of kin of those who died in the explosion at the Cantonment railway station in Varanasi.
  • Seriously injured would be sanctioned IN Rs 25,000 each while those with minor injuries will get IN Rs 1,000 each.
  • The railway ministry would bear all expenses of food, medicine and accommodation of the injured persons during the period of treatment.

Investigation

Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba militant outfit, whose member was shot dead in an encounter with police near Lucknow on Wednesday, were prima facie behind the blasts in Varanasi, a senior Uttar Pradesh government official said in Varanasi on Wednesday.[4]

Uttar Pradesh, Chief Secretary, Mr. Sinha said bombs were made in Bihar. The material to make bombs was procured in Nepal which was then smuggled across the porous Indo-Nepal border.

Official response

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has condemned the blasts and appealed for calm. A state of high alert was declared in India's major cities. Police were sent to all major places of worship in New Delhi. India's Cabinet Committee on Security met in emergency session. Varanasi shut down Wednesday to protest the blasts; shops and businesses closed, and authorities closed schools and colleges.[5] It reopened on 9 March.[6]

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, claimed that UP Police killed one of the suspected Pakistani involved who turned out to be a resident of Madhya Pradesh, but he was part of Lashkar-e Toiba Islamic group and police were on the lookout for him in context of Delhi blasts of 2005.

World reaction

The bombings in Varanasi have evoked strong condemnation from across the world.

  •  United States - has condemned the blasts in Varanasi that killed at least 28 persons and injured scores, calling them "acts of terrorism".
  •  United Kingdom - said it remained determined to work closely alongside India in its fight against the evil of terrorism. "I was horrified to hear of today's bombings in Varanasi, which resulted in the loss of innocent lives, and injury to many other victims," British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said in a statement in London.
  •  Australia - "We remain determined to work closely alongside India in its fight against this evil." Australian Prime Minister John Howard, currently on a visit to India, said in Chennai that the incident reminds the need for both India and his country to work together in the fight against the scourge of terrorism.
  •  Israel - The attacks were carried out "with the clear intention of offending religious sensibilities among pilgrims in one of the most sacred sites in India," a statement from the Foreign Ministry said in Jerusalem. "We believe that there must be a unanimous call from all religious leaders that emphasises the universal nature of religious sites, in the hope of preventing similar attacks in the future," the statement said. "Our thoughts are with the victims and their families and with the people of India," it added.[7]

Suspects

A little known group calling itself the Lashkar-e Kahar/Qahab has claimed responsibility for the attacks.[8]. A spokesperson for the group who identified himself as Abdullah Jabbar alias Abu Feroz called a local news agency in Srinagar on Thursday morning to claim responsibility for the blasts and threatened similar attacks in other cities unless the government stopped its "catch and kill" campaign in Jammu and Kashmir. A staff of the TV channel said that Feroz spoke in Urdu with a heavy Punjabi accent.[9]. It is speculated that the bombings were carried out in retaliation of the arrest of a Lashkar-e-Toiba agent in Varanasi earlier in February 2006 [10]. Some analysts see a connection between the bombings and Hindu-Muslim clashes in the city of Lucknow on 4 March 2006 that left four people dead. These clashes started due to protests against the President of the United States George W. Bush's India visit.[11] It is also believed that these attacks were a part of a series which included an attack at the IISc, Bangalore and also at the Akshardham Temple, Gujarat.

Timeline

  • The first blast took place around 6:20 p.m. (IST) at the Sankat Mochan temple.
  • Minutes after the first blast, another blast took place at a waiting room at the Varanasi cantonment railway station.
  • Soon after the blasts, three live bombs were recovered from the temple complex and one was recovered from a nearby restaurant.
  • Live bombs were also recovered from Godolia and Dashaswamedh ghat.

References


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