Five killed in Hyderabad blast during Friday prayers


Hyderabad: At least five people were killed and 16 injured when a blast went off near a water tank in the historic Mecca Masjid here just after the Friday prayers, triggering tension in the communally sensitive old city.

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The blast took place at 1.30 p.m. near the ‘wazu khana’ or water tank, where Muslims go through ablutions before offering prayers.

Two more bombs were defused in the mosque premises later, averting another tragedy.

Eyewitnesses said the blast occurred when thousands of Muslims were about to complete ‘namaz’.

The bomb was hidden under a stone bench on the vast premises of the mosque, located close to the four-century-old Charminar, a symbol of Hyderabad.

“I heard a loud thud as we were about to complete the prayers. The Imam (head priest) asked people not to panic as people thought a tyre had burst,” said Rafeeq Ahmed, who was offering prayers inside the main building of the mosque.

“Seconds later, people were running in panic. I came out and saw human body parts strewn around and the injured were being shifted,” he told IANS.

Home Minister K. Jana Reddy told newsmen that five people were killed and 15 others were injured. According to eyewitnesses six people were killed and 40 injured.

As tension gripped the city, the entire state was put on high alert. The area was cordoned off and all exit points from the city sealed.

“This is a very unfortunate incident. This is the handiwork of outsiders who want to shatter communal peace and harmony prevailing in the city,” said Jana Reddy.

Appealing for calm, the home minister said policemen from Andhra Pradesh Special Police, City Police, Rapid Action Force of Central Reserve Police Force and personnel of Greyhounds were being rushed to the old city.

The area was cordoned off and even media personnel were not allowed. Police intensified patrolling in sensitive areas of the old city, which has a long history of communal violence.

After the blast, hundreds of angry protesters took to streets near Charminar and attacked a petrol bunk and policemen. Police opened fire in the air to disperse the crowd at Pista House, about a kilometer from Charminar.

A large number of people present in the mosque premises shouted slogans against police.

Angry youths also took to streets in different parts of the city. Spontaneous demonstrations were seen in Mehdipatnam outside the old city.

The centuries old markets around Charminar, oldest and busiest commercial hub of old quarters, were closed after the blast and the area, which is usually thronged by shoppers and tourists, wore a deserted look.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who is in Delhi, is rushing to Hyderabad in the evening. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil will accompany him.

The chief minister announced Rs.500,000 each ex-gratia for the kin of those dead and Rs.20,000 each for the injured.