Five Blasts Put Delhi on High Alert

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Mustafa Quraishi / AP

An injured man, right, shouts for help as others lie injured on a road after a bomb explosion in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008. Witnesses say at least one explosion has hit a central New Delhi shopping area, leaving several people wounded

In the latest in a string of audacious terrorist attacks, India's capital was thrown into chaos on Saturday evening as five serial blasts left at least 18 people dead and 100 injured. The central business district of Connaught Place and busy markets in Karol Bagh and Greater Kailash-I were targeted between 6 and 7 p.m. and three more bombs were defused in Connaught Place. As of Saturday evening, one arrest had been reported.

Indian Mujahideen, which claimed responsibility for blasts that killed over 45 people in Bangalore and Ahmedabad six weeks ago, declared itself to be behind today's Delhi blasts as well. The group also warned of more attacks in Mumbai, the country's financial capital.

Delhi and Mumbai have been placed on high alert, and there is a palpable sense of panic in the capital. For at least an hour after the blasts, phone lines were jammed and traffic slowed to a crawl as people rushed home to safety. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts and appealed for calm. Police said all the explosions were low intensity, but don't know much about the nature or composition of the bombs. Unconfirmed reports say that bombs were detonated on a bicycle, in a dustbin and in an autorickshaw.

The group claiming responsibility, the Indian Mujahideen, is suspected to be an amalgamation of home-grown and Pakistan-based terror outfits that profess to seek revenge for the purported injustices and atrocities against the country's Muslim minority. In addition to the Ahmedabad and Bangalore blasts, Indian Mujahideen has claimed to have been behind blasts in the northwestern city of Jaipur in May, as well as serial blasts in the northern cities of Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow in November 2007.

The New Delhi blasts once again raise questions over India's ability to prevent terror attacks. There have been 13 major incidents in the past five years, and each time the same issues have been raised — lack of coordination between state and central security and investigation agencies, and intelligence and police forces being inadequately staffed, equipped and trained. Yet, as the regularity of the attacks shows, little has changed to deter terror organizations from striking at will.