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November 19, 1997


23 killed as Mohan Babu survives car bomb attack

bomb blast Rajya Sabha member and actor Mohan Babu survived a bomb blast which killed 23 people in the posh Jubilee Hill area of Hyderabad today. Thirtyfive others were seriously injured.

The actor, who was recently expelled from the Telugu Desam Party, had just driven out of a film studio in his Tata Sumo when a Fiat car packed with explosives went off.

Doctors at the Apollo hospital said the MP was out of danger. He suffered injuries on his chin and right leg.

A six-member crew of the Eenadu television network were among those killed in the blast. According to Police Commissioner R P Singh, most of the injured were in a critical condition with their limbs torn in the blast.

Among those injured was the film's producer, Paritala Ravi, who hails from the Rayalaseema region. Ravi, who was thrown off the vehicle along with Mohan Babu, was rushed to the Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences. He is out of danger. Most of the victims are said to his supporters.

bomb blast A former Telugu Desam minister, Ravi initially supported N T Rama Rao following the palace coup staged by Naidu in August 1995. Later, he returned to Naidu's fold.

Known for his Leftist links, Ravi was criticised on several occasions by the Congress for his ties with the outlawed People's War Group.

According to the police commissioner, the massive explosion could have been triggered by a landmine planted in the car and set off through a remote-control device.

Such blasts are common in Ravi's native Rayalaseema region, but the number of casualties is baffling, Singh said.

So powerful was the explosion that it could be heard at a distance of about two kilometres. The window panes of four houses besides those of the Naidu studio were shattered to pieces by the impact of the explosion.

Work at the studio, located one km away from the blast site, came to an immediate halt due to the impact of the bomb. ''Initially, some of us thought the deafening roar was triggered by gelatin sticks being used for pulverising rocks,'' producer and studio owner Rama Naidu said. ''We were shocked to learn that it was a massive bomb explosion.''

The blast occurred at 1215 hours after Mohan Babu and Ravi drove out of the studio, followed by a bus-load of followers. They were in the studio for the film's muhurat.

Had the Eenadu television van not overtaken the actor's vehicle, Mohan Babu's Tata Sumo would have borne the brunt of the explosion, one eyewitness said. The van was completely gutted, and all its occupants were killed.

bomb blast Three other vehicles in the 10-strong convoy were badly affected. Hundreds of people, standing on either side of the road, watched as the convoy zoomed by. Some of these spectators died as the car bomb went off.

''The blast was triggered as soon as the Maruti which led the convoy reached a curve, some distance away from the studio,'' said Ravi's confidant Shankar, who was following the controversial MLA in another jeep. Shankar had a narrow escape.

It is widely believed that the blast was the handiwork of some of Ravi's rivals belonging to Anantapur. Home Minister A Madhava Reddy, however, did not rule out the possible involvement of the outlawed People's War Group of Naxalites.

Asked by Rediff On The NeT if the PWG was involved, revolutionary poet Vara Vara Rao said, ''I do not wish to comment... I don't think they are involved.''

After inspecting the blast site, Reddy said the crime branch would investigate the attack. He said the blast was caused by high-intensity gelatines and detonators kept in a stationary Premier Padmini car (CKM 646) and triggered possibly by a remote-control device.

Mohan babu He said many important clues were available to identify the real culprits, but refused to elaborate. He declined to comment on the possibility of political rivalry being responsible for the incident.

The home minister said more than 10,000 people had come from Anantapur to witness the mahurat. Forensic tests were on to establish the substance used in the blast.

The possibility of landmines being used in the incident, however, was ruled out by senior police officials. ''A landmine would have created a huge crater of 10-metre dimension, given the magnitude of the explosion. But the blast site only has a two-foot-wide crater,'' a police official said.

Photographs courtesy: Deccan Chronicle, TVI network

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