MUMBAI, July 14 (IANS): At least 17 people died in the coordinated terror attack in Mumbai the day before, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Thursday, asking people not to speculate on those responsible behind it. He also admitted that there were no intelligence inputs about the triple blasts.
He said 131 people had been taken to 13 hospitals with injuries - of which 26 were discharged, 82 were stable and 23 were serious. He said one severed head was also found at the site, which could take the death toll to 18.
"There was no intelligence input to central or state intel agency regarding yesterday's blast -- it was unfortunate," Chidambaram said at a press conference here after visiting the blast sites with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
"I request you all, do not speculate. I advise the Maharashtra government not to proceed with pre-suppositions or assumptions," the home minister said, adding that the people of Mumbai had responded "splendidly".
According to Chidambaram, the sites had now been cordoned off and the state and central-level teams would continue to work to determine the nature of the explosives. "But it was not a remote trigger blast."
"Ammonium nitrate was used with a timer. The fact that they all took place within minutes of each other -- eight-to-10 minutes -- shows that it was a coordinated terror attack," he said.
The state's forensic lab has collected the requisite evidence to ascertain the actual nature of explosive, the timer mechanism, the package that contained the explosives, the place it was located and the damage caused.
The home minister also sought to clarify that absence of intelligence inputs did not necessarily mean a a failure of the concerned agencies.
"When there is no intelligence on particular agency, it doesn't mean a failure of the agency. There was no intelligence on an imminent attack, but its not failure. In nature of things, whoever prepared the attack, worked in a clandestine manner," he said.
"Maybe, it was a small group. Intelligence is covered everyday and every hour," he said.
"This incident comes after 31 months," he said, referring to the previous blast in the state on Nov 11, 2008. "In between, there was one terror attack in Pune. In a sense, the Mumbai Police have developed a lot of capacity to deal with terror threats and successfully foiled a large number of terror threats."
Among the three blasts, all in south-to-central Mumbai, he described the one at Dadar as a low-intensity one, and said the other two at Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House were of medium-to-high intensity.
Asked if the terror attacks were aimed at destabilising activity in the city and the country as a whole, Chidambaram replied: "I don't consider it as an attack on India's commercial capital. It is deeply regrettable. But India will continue to grow and prosper."
He also said the investigators would also keep in mind whether the blasts were aimed at destabilising talks with Pakistan. "Indo-Pakistan talks are on a few days That angle will also be kept in mind."