Govt had warned of bombs that killed 16 in Hyderabad

HYDERABAD, India Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:45pm IST

1 of 5. Forensic officials inspect the site of an explosion at Dilsukh Nagar in Hyderabad February 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Krishnendu Halder/Files

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HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - India had intelligence agency warnings of a security threat several days before two bombs went off in a market in the city of Hyderabad, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said on Friday, adding that the death toll had risen to 16.

Four people were in critical condition after the near-simultaneous explosion of the bombs planted on bicycles on Thursday, Shinde told parliament after visiting the site and a hospital treating some of the 117 wounded.

Hyderabad is a major IT centre in India, only second to Bangalore. Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Google (GOOG.O) have centres in the city. The blasts happened in a market near a middle-class neighbourhood across the city from the business district.

Shinde faced anger over the attack from opposition politicians who questioned whether the government had done enough to prevent it after the warning. Police said two of three security cameras at the market were not working at the time.

No group claimed responsibility and Shinde said it was too early to make accusations.

Pakistan condemned the attack. India often blames its Muslim neighbour and old rival for militant attacks including a commando-style assault in Mumbai that killed 166 people in 2008.

"Being itself a victim of terrorism, Pakistan fully understands and shares the pain and agony of the people of India," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Police were deployed throughout Hyderabad to prevent violence between Hindus and Muslims in the city where there has recently been tension between the two communities. Bomb blasts in India have in the past led to clashes.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition force in the country, called for a one-day strike in Hyderabad on Friday to protest against the attack.

Shinde said the federal government had warned states of an unspecified threat though no particular target was identified.

"A general alert was given in the past two to three days to the whole country. And that's all," he told reporters.

The explosions come less than two weeks after India hanged Afzal Guru for his involvement in an attack on parliament in 2001. Authorities say a bomb that killed 17 at Delhi High Court in 2011 was planted by militants who wanted Guru's death sentence commuted.

How effective the government is in preventing militant is a political issue in India and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress party has had to fend off accusations by the BJP of being weak on security.

The hanging of Guru, who denied involvement in the parliament attack, was seen by some commentators as a show of strength by a government gearing up for a general election due by early next year.

Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj criticised the government for not doing enough to prevent the Hyderabad blasts.

"What exactly did you do to stop it?" Swaraj asked during a special debate in parliament.

(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Additional reporting by Satarupa Bhattacharjya and Annie Banerji; Editing by Matthias Williams and Robert Birsel)

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