After weeks of numerous warnings of impending attacks, another bomb blast struck a major Indian city. During the evening hours of December 28, a low-grade Improvised Explosive Device (IED), filled with shrapnel, exploded in Bangalore’s commercial district, on Church Street. The blast occurred outside the popular Coconut Grove restaurant. Although not very powerful, four casualties were reported, including one fatality. Two people have been arrested, according to reports.
Reports indicate that the device, placed between flower pots, was timed to explode. After the blast, there were reports of more blasts in the city, as well as the presence of other devices, yet these reports were proven incorrect. Rumors of explosions were apparently circulating on social media in the city as well. Further reports indicated that the IED was similar to those used in several previous attacks in India, including the July 11blast in Pune and the May 1 Chennai explosion.
Following the bombing, police were placed on high-alert throughout Bangalore. Reinforcements were also said to have been deployed to the city from other districts. Unconfirmed reports on December 29, meanwhile, indicate that India has declared a heightened state of alert at all air force bases nationwide. Security forces are now, ahead of New Year’s Eve, on high-alert in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, and Kolkata. More reports, meanwhile, indicated that intelligence has pointed to possible attacks by Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in Mumbai. The focus is again on five SIMI members who escaped from an Indian prison in 2013. India believes those militants have been contracted by Pakistan’s ISI to launch attacks in India.
Overall, the blast underscores the continued threat of Islamist militancy in India, especially in major cities. Bangalore has been hit by several bombings, sometimes a series of blasts, in previous years. Moreover, this latest attack comes on the heels of increased warnings of such attacks by both the Indian and the US governments. This prompted a bolstering of security measures in recent weeks throughout major cities. Indian officials have stated that the bombing occurred, despite security personnel in the city already maintaining a heightened state of alert. These warnings primarily focused on possible attacks by Lashkar-e-Taiba and SIMI, with warnings regarding the SIMI threat being the most detailed. In that context, various Indian security agencies have pointed to SIMI’s possible involvement in the Bangalore blast. Accusations were largely based on analysis of the device. SIMI is the prime suspect.
However, at this time, the Indian government has yet to officially accuse a single faction of being behind the attack in Bangalore. Numerous factions are capable and willing to conduct such attacks. In addition to the aforementioned groups, which have been accused of carrying out similar bombings, other factions like Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) from Bangladesh, India Mujahadeen, Al-Ummah, or individuals associated with the Islamic State (IS), are likely to be considered as well. The latter possibility has been spoken of extensively, given that Bangalore’s Police Department was warned by IS sympathizers for arresting a suspected Bangalore-based IS propagandist on Twitter.
While it appears that the attack was not on the same scale of those warned by both Washington and Delhi over the past month, previous American warnings in recent years were followed with similar bombings. Amidst the heightened frequency of warnings, there was, nonetheless, a general feeling in India that Islamist attacks were highly likely. Such concerns were seemingly connected to the Christmas holiday season, President Obama’s upcoming visit to India, along with increasing violence in Pakistan. Moreover, it remains possible that last night’s bombing in Bangalore was meant to target foreigners. This is assessed given the location of the attack, outside a popular restaurant, in the heart of the business district. Further reports indicated that the fatality was in Bangalore to celebrate Christmas.
In line with those aforementioned factors, and continued warnings, there remains a significant risk for more Islamist attacks in India over the coming days and weeks. Therefore, security will likely remain high in Bangalore and major cities. Tactical measures are also liable to be put into place in order to counter planned attacks. This could include bans on vehicular travel, especially motorbikes, in certain areas. Already, authorities in Bangalore have instructed certain businesses and locales to erect CCTV cameras. Also, India is likely to remain increasingly attentive to the Pakistani border, following four days of cross-border clashes over the last week. It is often assessed that Pakistan uses such border skirmishes in order to infiltrate militants into India.