Friday, October 3, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

6 rights activists detained
Probe ordered into attack on Naidu; 8 more mines found

Tirupati/Hyderabad, October 2
Eight unexploded Claymore mines, similar to the ones that blasted Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s car yesterday, were detected today highlighting the security lapses into which a rattled Andhra Pradesh Government ordered a probe by its Security Adviser even as six persons were detained for questioning.

Mr Naidu, who suffered injuries on his chest and nose and fractured his right shoulder, was flown in to the state capital, along with Information Technology Minister B. Gopalakrishna Reddy by a special aircraft. The Chief Minister, who stepped out of the aircraft with a hand in plaster, climbed down the ladder and straight got into a waiting car on the tarmac of the Begumpet airport to be driven home.

As investigations began into the explosions triggered by suspected People’s War Group naxalites, it has now emerged that a total of 17 landmines were planted near the Alipiri toll gate on the Ghat Road leading to the famous Venkateswara temple.

The police, which launched a massive manhunt for those responsible for the blasts, today recovered at least eight unexploded mines planted in a stretch of 200 metres on the second Ghat road to the shrine. They suspected the mines could have been planted months ago as thick grass had grown around them and could have resulted in a major disaster if they had been detonated.

Meanwhile, the police today picked up for questioning six civil rights activists from the temple town of Tirupati in connection with landmine blasts injuring Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and four others.

Three activists belonging to AP Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), including Chittoor district unit president Hari Prasad, were detained by the police and taken to a local police station for interrogation, the committee’s state general secretary Prof Seshaiah said here.

Along with them, two other civil rights activists belonging to Rayalaseema Praja Samithi (RPC) and a sympathiser of APCLC Uday were also picked up by the police, he said.

The detained APCLC members were identified as Hari Prasad, M.V. Prasad and Kesav.

The police alleged the detained civil rights activists had links with the outlawed People’s War Group (PWG), suspected to be behind yesterday’s blasts.

As the powerful blasts exposed chinks in the security system and raised doubts over its efficacy, the Security Adviser to the government, Mr S. Subrahmanyam, had been asked to go into the lapses and suggest measures for “fool-proof” arrangements, officials said.

Mr Subrahmanyam, a retired IPS officer, has since left for the site where mines exploded blasting Mr Naidu’s bullet-proof Ambassador car in the foothills of the famous Venkateswara shrine. The report is to be submitted in 10 days to find out those responsible for the blast.

Mr Naidu spoke to his Cabinet colleagues and party leaders, who called on him at his residence, and asked them to assure the people that he was doing well.

A panel of doctors, headed by NIMS Director K. Subba Rao, is monitoring the Chief Minister’s condition with mobile X-ray units being moved to his residence to conduct tests.

Information Technology Minister Reddy was admitted to Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences.

TDP MLA R. Rajshekhar Reddy, who was seriously injured in the blast and had slipped into coma, was responding to treatment today. Another TDP legislator Ch Krishna Murthy, who suffered injury in his eye, was taken to Apollo hospital in Chennai.

The mines, planted within a gap of 10 feet each, were detected by the bomb disposal squad with the help of sniffer dogs, police sources said.

It has now emerged that a total of 17 landmines were planted by the Naxalites of which nine had exploded.

The mines might have been planted about six months ago with a view to wiping out the entire convoy of the Chief Minister, they said.

Mr Naidu usually visited the shrine to offer “silk vastrams” to the Lord on the eve of “Garuda Seva” annually.

The sources said only four mines went off yesterday. If all of them had exploded then it could have been disastrous to the entire convoy. The mines have been removed and taken to an undisclosed place.

Soon after Mr Naidu reached home, Governor Surjeet Singh Barnala called on him, enquired about his condition and wished him a speedy recovery. The road leading to his residence was turned into a

virtual fortress with police cordoning off the area, conducting a thorough frisking of visitors and keeping mediapersons and cameramen at bay.

NEW DELHI: Cutting across party lines, leaders, including several Chief Ministers, today condemned the attempt by Naxalites on the life of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu at Tirupati and said it was aimed at spreading terror and creating chaos in the country.

Expressing ‘shock’ over the attempt on Mr Naidu’s life, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said “such cowardly acts of violence were bids to spread terror in the public mind. The attack must be condemned in the strongest terms and such heinous acts of terrorism must be put down with an iron hand.”

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, in a letter faxed to Mr Naidu, said, “I am deeply shocked to learn of the attempt on your life. No language is adequate to condemn this heinous act.”

The German President Johannes Rau today also condemned the assassination attempt on Mr Naidu and hoped the culprits would be apprehended soon.

In a message, Mr Rau said, “With great consternation have I learnt that an attempt has been made on your life and I hope you recover quickly from your injuries” a German Embassy release here quoted Mr Rau to say.

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