India on high alert: Twin bike bombs kill at least 11 in southern Indian city of Hyderabad

The explosions, which injured scores of market goers, come amid ongoing tensions in India over its recent execution of convicted terrorist Mohammad Afzal Guru.

Reuters
Fire fighters extinguish a fire at the site of an explosion in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad February 21, 2013. Two bombs placed on bicycles exploded in a crowded market-place in Hyderabad on Thursday, and the federal home minister said at least 11 people were killed and 50 wounded.

A pair of bicycle bombs rocked a crowded marketplace in Hyderabad today, killing at least 11 people and injuring scores more in the southern Indian city of 6.8 million, a major hub for information technology where Microsoft and Google have a large presence.

Reuters reports that India has gone on high alert after the explosions, which local television stations report may have killed up to 15 people and wounded at least 50. The last major bomb attack in India was a blast in September of 2011 outside the high court in New Delhi that killed 13 people.

"Both blasts took place within a radius of 150 meters," federal Home (Interior) Minister Sushil Shinde told reporters, adding the explosives were placed on bicycles parked in the crowded marketplace. "Eight people died at one place, three at the other."

The explosions come less than two weeks after India hanged a Kashmiri man for a militant attack on the country's parliament in 2001 that had sparked violent clashes.

Witnesses told Reuters they heard at least two explosions in the Dilsukh Nagar area of Hyderabad just after dusk but there could have been more.

The Hindustan Times reports that Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters that "it was too early to say anything" about whether it was a terrorist attack, but that the government was investigating. But the Times notes that the country had already been on alert for attacks due to the recent execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru, a convict in the 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.

The Monitor reported earlier this month that Mr. Afzal Guru's death sentence, though handed down in 2002, was carried out on Feb. 9 without advance warning, and appears to involve a significant political impetus.

The execution is being seen by analysts as the ruling Congress party’s way of regaining public confidence in the wake of several corruption scandals and protests over the recent Delhi gang-rape. Political commentator Seema Mustafa says the sudden decision to execute Afzal Guru, after years of dilly-dallying, is part of a Congress party effort to improve its position for the 2014 general elections. “The Congress in its usual cynical manipulation of the votes is trying to eat into the majority constituency with this action,” she says.

Executions had become more rare up until [that of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist in the 2008 Mumbai attacks] – the first in India in eight years. Like Kasab's hanging in November, Azfal Guru's came just ahead of a parliament session. “I would just say it's extremely tragic if Indian democracy is going to survive on executing someone or the other before every Parliament session,” says lawyer Vrinda Grover. Congress party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi called such suggestions about the timing "irresponsible and childish."

The execution led to days of protest in Kashmir, where Afzal Guru was from.

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