Embassy blast mars New Delhi street's calm

The irony is that only a handful of radicals know who Mughniyeh was, or care what happened to him.

By KANCHAN GUPTA
February 14, 2012 00:55
4 minute read.
Hezbollah Imad Mughniyeh

Hezbollah Imad Mughniyeh 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

Israel’s embassy in New Delhi is located on a tree-lined avenue called Aurangzeb Road, named after a Mughal ruler known for being a bigoted zealot. But it is not the only high-profile establishment on this road off India Gate, the towering landmark of India’s capital city.

Senior members of parliament and business tycoons have their bungalows along both sides of the road. On any given weekday, traffic is heavy but – unlike in other parts of Delhi – there are no stand-stills.

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The smooth and swift flow of traffic has been ensured for two reasons. First, the road is designated as a high security zone (no slowing, no stopping, especially in front of the embassy). Second, it leads to Race Course Road where the prime minister lives, in what is possibly the most fortified area of India.

Barring the occasional honking by motorists, it is largely a quiet stretch, as is Safdarjung Road where it ends. Beyond lies the Delhi Gymkhana that is a relic of the nation’s colonial past, a sprawling Indian Air Force complex and the prime minister’s residence at 7 Race Course Road. There is a traffic light at the intersection of Safdarjung Road and Aurangzeb Road.

The relative calm of this part of New Delhi, where not a leaf is believed to stir without security agencies getting wind of it, was shattered at 3:15 p.m. on Monday afternoon when a Toyota SUV, fitted with the distinctive “CD” number plate denoting its status as an embassy vehicle, burst into flames just as after crossing the traffic lights 500 meters from the prime minister’s residence.

Eyewitnesses say they heard a huge explosion and then saw the car erupt into flames. A staffer at the Israeli Embassy, Tal Yehoshua-Koren, wife of the Israeli defense attaché, was traveling in that vehicle.

While there are conflicting reports of what followed, according to the version corroborated by senior security officials, Yehoshua-Koren was hurled out of the car by the explosion.

She was hurt and bleeding, and asked the people hastening to put out the blaze to take her to the embassy. From there, she was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery; doctors describe her condition as “stable but critical.”

Her driver, an Indian named Manoj Sharma, was also injured, as were the two elderly occupants of the car behind the SUV. The smoldering vehicle, its body horribly twisted, was towed away for forensic tests.

The police have determined that a bomb was stuck to its rear, using a “sticky substance.” At least two eyewitnesses have said that they saw two men riding a motorcycle follow the SUV and “stick something to it” when it slowed at the traffic lights.

If a “sticky bomb” was indeed used for the blast, it could not have been planted while the SUV was parked outside the Israeli Embassy. A posse of policemen and embassy guards keep a constant watch on that stretch of Aurangzeb Road. Cameras enable 24x7 monitoring. The remote-controlled bomb would have to be planted on the car while it was moving. This validates the eyewitness accounts of two men on a motorcycle tailing the car.

If true, this heralds the use of a deadly modus operandi by terrorists in India who have until now planted bombs with timers using bags, briefcases and garbage cans. A sticky bomb at one of Delhi’s many crowded traffic intersections could wreak havoc.

“Initial report suggests attachment of foreign substance in the rear of the vehicle. However, the exact cause of the explosion will be known only after further investigation by Delhi Police,” Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs Ajay Chadha told the media late in the evening.

While there is no official confirmation of the material used, polices sources said forensic experts had found traces of potassium chlorate, sulphur and sulphuric acid. That would rule out the use of plastics.

Monday’s attack was roundly condemned. It was the second attack targeting Israelis since November 26, 2008, when Pakistani jihadis raided the Chabad House in Mumbai.

On February 13, 2010, a bag packed with explosives went off at German Bakery, a popular café in the city of Pune. It is believed the bomber intended to plant the bag at an Israeli guest house across the street but panicked at the sight of armed security guards.

Zafarul-Islam Khan is the editor of The Milli Gazette, a Delhi-based publication that comes out every two weeks, and espouses radical Islamism and routinely berates Israel while calling upon India to break relations with the “Zionist state.”

Unsurprisingly, he has sought to justify the attack. On a television show, he recalled that February 12 marked the fourth anniversary of the killing of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh by “Zionists.”

The irony is that only a handful of radicals like Khan – among India’s millions of Muslims – know who Mughniyeh was, or care what happened to him. Nor is there any love lost between them and Iran, or its terror proxy Hezbollah. Among the few who are besotted with Iran and Hezbollah are those who offered their services as foot soldiers to carry out Monday’s attack.


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