India: Hyderabad bomb blasts labeled 'terror attack'; At least 15 killed (PHOTOS, VIDEO)



Indian authorities and onlookers are pictured at the site of a bomb blast at Dilshuk Nagar in Hyderabad on February 21, 2013. At least 18 people were killed and 52 wounded when bombs ripped through crowded areas of the Indian city of Hyderabad on Thursday in what the prime minister called a "dastardly act".



UPDATE: Indian intelligence agencies warned of a security threat several days before the bombings in Hyderabad, the Indian interior minister said on Friday.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the death toll had risen to 16, with four people still in critical condition after the blasts on Thursday.

Indian police said they were investigating whether an Islamic militant group called the Indian Mujahideen might be involved in the bomb attack, according to the Associated Press.

Pakistan condemned the attacks on Friday, saying, "all acts of terrorism are unjustifiable regardless of their motivation," according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

"Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Being itself a victim of terrorism, Pakistan fully understands and shares the pain and agony of the people of India. Our prayers and thoughts are with the families of victims of this terrorist attack."

The original article appears below:

DELHI, India — A series of explosions in the southern city of Hyderabad in India killed at least 15 people and injured dozens more on Thursday evening.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "This is a dastardly act and the guilty will not go unpunished," according to Agence France Presse.

AFP said the death toll was 20, citing Hyderabad's deputy inspector of police. Nearly 80 people were wounded.

The Associated Press put the number of dead at 12, but the number was steadily climbing.

The joint commissioner of Hyderabad police, Sanjay Kumar Jain, told AFP, "This is a terror attack."

US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, "We condemn the cowardly attack in Hyderabad, India, in the strongest possible terms, and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected and to the people of India."

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the bombs were attached to two bicycles about 500 feet apart, according to the AP.

Federal Home Secretary R.K. Singh said police were working on determining the cause of the explosions. The blasts happened about 10 minutes apart, at a movie theater and a bus station, according to the police.

CNN IBN in India reported at least 15 people were feared dead in the explosions, which happened in Dilsukh Nagar, a commercial hub of the city, around 7 p.m.

The state of Andhra Pradesh, in which Hyderabad is located, was placed on high alert after the bombings. The National Investigation Agency said three blasts happened, but it was unclear where the third explosion was located.

Sources within the Home Ministry said the explosions were a terror strike carried out by "a well-trained" group, timed to cause maximum damage, according to Indian news site NDTV.

Delhi, Mumbai and other major Indian cities have been placed on high alert.

Following in the wake of 2007 bombings that struck a mosque, an amusement park and a popular restaurant, the serial blasts in Hyderabad late Thursday evening again drove home the point that terrorism in India is no longer limited to the north – where the Kashmir conflict and the Punjab separatist movement previously made such attacks routine.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility. And Indian officials are not pointing fingers. Given the timing of the attack, however, some suspicion will inevitably fall on Pakistan-based terror outfits such as Lashkar-e-Toiba.

India's execution of convicted Kashmiri terrorist Afzal Guru this month fanned the flames in Kashmir. And the alleged ceasefire violations by Pakistan on the Line of Control in January and February suggested to many Indian hawks that the Pakistani military had been instructed to provide covering fire for terrorist infiltrators to cross the border.

Jumping to that conclusion could well prove to be a mistake, though. Blame for the 2007 Mecca Masjid bombing in Hyderabad has now fallen on members of a Hindu nationalist extremist group, though nobody has been convicted so far. And the Indian government attributed the attacks on the amusement park and restaurant to Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami – another claim that has so far not been proven.

Such guesswork is especially dangerous now. For the past month, Hyderabad – and the Hindu right – have been aboil over alleged hate speech by Muslim politician Akbaruddin Owaisi of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM). Released on bail on Friday, Owaisi allegedly sparked outrage by suggesting at a rally that Muslims should attack Hindus, though he has denied those charges. Subsequently, Pravin Togadia of the far-right Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) retaliated with some inflammatory comments of his own, bringing the issue to national prominence and no doubt increasing animosity locally – where the Muslim population is reportedly deeply alienated.

Just days before Thursday's bombing, popular news weekly India Today wrote in an article headlined “Fear and Loathing in Hyderabad” that hamfisted police crackdowns on young Muslims since the 2007 bombings have left the minority population angry and deeply suspicious of the government. It was that distrust that Owaisi tapped into when he allegedly dared the police to disperse for 15 minutes so that the “250 million Muslims could settle scores with a billion Hindus.”

More on GlobalPost: Afzal Guru hanged in India for 2001 parliament attack

Watch a video report from Indian news outlet NDTV: