It’s a cycle India has seen repeated 13 times in nearly three years: Bombs are planted where they can kill as many people as possible. Investigations follow, memories fade and months later, bombs explode in another city.
But with 552 people dead since October 2005, security forces remain chronically undermanned and ill-equipped, and the political elite appears unwilling to take the sweeping action experts say is needed to stop the bloodshed.
“What has been done between the last attack and the latest atrocity to augment our ability to stop terrorists, to root them out? Nothing,” said Ajai Sahni, a former chief of India’s domestic Intelligence Bureau.
He called India’s police forces and its intelligence agencies “hideous and hidebound” and noted that in a country where hundreds of millions of people worry every day about finding enough food to eat, “every politician knows that security issues don’t win or lose elections.”
On Saturday, 22 explosions tore through the centuries-old city of Ahmadabad, killing at least 42 people a day after seven smaller bombs left two dead in the technology hub of Bangalore.
By Tuesday, police had traced an e-mail taking responsibility for the Ahmadabad blasts and two cars used in the attack to a suburb of Mumbai, India’s commercial center, and had detained at least 30 people for questioning and arrested one possible suspect.
But just as in the past dozen attacks, there was little expectation the police would come up with anything more than a few small timers, if that.
While officials also see a foreign hand in the latest attacks, they remain uncertain as to groups involved or their exact aims.
“We have to accept that it is fellow citizens who are carrying out these attacks. They may get help from Pakistan, but they are Indians,” said Sahni, the former Intelligence Bureau chief.
Beyond that, officials remain puzzled.
“We have been unable to crack any major terror cells and this is limiting what we know,” said an official with the Home Ministry — which oversees domestic security — who spoke on condition of anonymity because the sensitivity of the matter.
Meanwhile, Japan’s government warned its nationals in India and closed part of its embassy in the country after receiving a message warning of a possible terrorist attack.
The Embassy of Japan in New Delhi received an e-mailed warning of bomb attacks on Sarogini Nagar, a market district in the Indian capital, according to a statement posted on the embassy’s Web site. The embassy told Japanese nationals to avoid public places including stations and markets.