Thirteen people were injured, one of them seriously, in two explosions that took place in quick succession inside the historic Jama Masjid in Old Delhi [ Images ] when the devout were offering prayers on Friday evening.
The first explosion took place at around 5.30 pm, when devotees were preparing for 'Asar' (evening prayer) near a pond used by them for ablutions.
Today being Friday and a holiday on account of Babasaheb Ambedkar's birth anniversary, a large number of people were present in the complex at the time of the explosion.
Fifteen minutes later, another blast rocked the place, eye-witnesses said.
Jama Masjid spokesman Amanullah Khan told rediff.com, "We were caught unawares. There was no warning given to us by the Delhi police nor were we told that there was any risk of blasts.
"Since it was prayer time, not many people were present at the spot where the twin blasts took place," he said, adding, "A large number of worshippers have gathered here. They are agitated about the blasts and are refusing to go away."
Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the shahi imam of Jama Masjid, has appealed to the people to maintain communal harmony and to defeat the designs of those who want to disrupt the peaceful co-existence between Hindus and Muslims.
"About eight hundred devotees were praying in the masjid when the first blast took place. That was around 5.25 in the evening. I immediately rushed to the spot and was asking people to help in removing the injured to hospitals when the second blast took place," he said.
He ordered the immediate closure of all the gates of the Jama Masjid so that the police could look out for any other bomb that be hidden somewhere else. "This is the handiwork of those who carried out the bomb blasts in Benaras. The persons who have been arrested are innocent but those who perpetrated the crime are still roaming around freely," he charged but refused to elaborate.
This is the first time that Jama Masjid has been targetted by the militants. In recent times the imam has been using strong language against terrorist outfits.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit announced that Rs 20,000 will be given as compensation to those injured in the blasts.
Undeterred by the explosions, devout went back to the mosque about one-and-half hours later to offer prayer.
The Delhi police, which cordoned off the area and diverted traffic to other routes, has declared a red alert in the capital.
The injured from Friday's blasts have been admitted to the Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital.
According to Ajay Kumar, chief of anti-terrorist cell of police, the two blasts that took place in Jama Masjid were of low-intensity.
Talking to rediff.com, he said some kind of triggering-mechanism had been used to detonate the bombs.
"It is too early to tell who was behind the blasts but prima-facie evidences suggest that someone was trying to provoke people and disturb communal harmony in the country," he added.
Ajay Sahani, terrorism expert of Institute of Conflict management, said, "It is clear that objective was to incite violence within the country. But the good thing about today's event and the event in Varanasi was that people were not reacting in frenzy and people behind the blasts were not succeeding."
Meanwhile, an alert has been sounded at many places, including Mumbai [ Images ]. Security in places of worship in Mumbai was enhanced and a high alert sounded following the explosions, the police said. A security ring has been pup up in and around shrines including Haji Ali, the Mahim Dargah and mosques in central Mumbai.
With PTI inputs