Bombs hit Indian Premier League match
The safety of the New Zealand contingent to the Commonwealth Games in India in October is again in the spotlight after two bombs exploded outside a cricket stadium in Bangalore yesterday, injuring 10 people.
Leading Kiwi cricket commentator Simon Doull has described this morning's bomb blasts at an Indian Premier League match in Bangalore as "one of the most bizarre and frightening things I've ever experienced".
Former Black Caps bowler Doull - in India to commentate on the Twenty20 tournament - was standing in the middle of Chinnaswamy Stadium ahead of a clash between the Mumbai Indians and Black Cap Ross Taylor's Bangalore Royal Challengers when he heard the first explosion from just outside the ground.
"Mate, it was pretty full on I can tell you that," Doull, clearly still shaken by the incident, told Fairfax Media from his hotel room in India.
"Two little bombs were planted outside the ground and, from what I understand, they were rigged to go off at 3pm local time.
"They both exploded and the second one was loud, man.
"It was just outside the ground and injured a number of people.
"We were out in the middle of the ground at the time and were ushered underneath to a concrete little jungle, given a bit of a safety briefing and then made to wait.
"The game then started about 5pm."
The New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC), which organises New Zealand's Commonwealth Games contingent, said it was taking the incident seriously and would seek advice from the government's Major Events Security Committee.
"The NZOC will take action accordingly," it said in a statement.
"Athlete safety remains the organisation's highest priority."
The NZOC would work with the Major Events Security Committee, the Commonwealth Games Federation and other Commonwealth nations to monitor the situation.
Sports venues in India have faced tight security amid fears that Islamist radical groups may target them.
Neighbouring Pakistan, which endures near-daily bombings from militants, has been off limits to foreign cricket teams since gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka team's bus in Lahore last year, killing six police officers and the van's driver.
The Pakistan Cricket Board was forced to organise its home series in the United Arab Emirates, its home test series against New Zealand last year was played on opposition soil and this year's against Australia took place in England.
CLOSE ESCAPE FOR KIWIS
Doull said he'd been told by a security guard once he returned to his hotel after the match that another much larger bomb had been found in a tree outside the ground and defused before going off.
"It's only a rumour I've heard but apparently the second bomb that went off was full of about 10kg of dynamite and this other bomb, which had been set to go off at 8pm after the match, was more like 150kgs," he said.
"Obviously I don't have any proof of that but I'd hate to think what would have happened if it had exploded."
Doull said he knew the minute he heard the explosion what was going on.
"I was standing next to Andy Bichel (former Australian cricketer) and when we heard the first explosion we just looked at each other and went 'what's going on here'," Doull said.
"You couldn't mistake that sound for anything else.
"It was one of those sounds, while I had never heard it before, you just knew was a bomb."
After a delay, Indian Premier League bizarrely organisers opted to play the game despite the two bomb blasts.
When play began, Bangalore failed to chase down Mumbai's total of 191.
"At first, I think the players were a bit concerned about playing," Doull said.
"But given nobody was killed and that the blast took place outside the stadium, I would probably guess that 90 percent of people inside the stadium wouldn't have had a clue.
"There was never a public announcement or anything like that as far as I heard.
"I don't know whether the game should have ever been played or not.
"When we got back to the hotel and discovered that another bomb - the biggest one of the lot - had been discovered, we started to wonder whether we should have gone ahead with the match."
The IPL, which started on March 12, is scheduled to finish on April 25.
Doull has one more match to commentate in Delhi today and will fly home to New Zealand, as originally planned, tomorrow.
"I've just got to hope that everything goes okay in Delhi and then I'll be coming home the day after that," he said.
"When that plane is 50 metres off the ground and on its way to Singapore, I'll be the happiest man alive.
"To hear bombs actually go off and then to discover another bomb could have gone off as well, mate you can't prepare yourself for that.
"For me this was one of the most bizarre and frightening things I've ever experienced."
Black Caps star Taylor turned out for Bangalore in the match but Doull said he didn't get a chance to talk to him before leaving the ground.
At least 10 people were wounded when two bombs exploded in Bangalore, stirring fears about more militant attacks, police said.
The explosions came a day after the US State Department issued a travel alert in which it said: "The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups may be planning attacks in India".
India said it was further tightening security before the October Commonwealth Games after the United States issued its warning about possible militant attacks on hotels and markets in India.
Several cricket-playing countries had warned their players in advance about participating in the Indian Premier League (IPL) about security threats in India.
Bangalore police commissioner Shankar Bidari said the two bombs that exploded may have been hidden behind a plastic board.
"It is a minor bomb blast, but investigations are in full swing to find out who is responsible," Bidari told reporters.
Indian Home Ministry officials said cities had been asked to bolster security in key installations after the Bangalore blast, the second bomb attack since the 2008 Mumbai raid in which 166 people were killed in a three day carnage.
In February, a powerful blast ripped through a restaurant in the western city of Pune, killing 17 people. India has blamed the Indian Mujahideen, a homegrown militant group with links to militants in Pakistan, for the Pune attack.
India's Congress-led government is under increasing pressure from the opposition for failing to tackle issues such as security and food inflation as it heads into eight key state polls over the next two years.
India remains jittery about a perceived threat of Islamist attacks from Pakistani territory. It accuses its neighbour of failing to act against militant groups which have threatened to disrupt the cricket tournament and the Commonwealth Games.
New Delhi has called a pause in peace talks with Pakistan since the 2008 Mumbai attacks by Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. It wants "credible steps" by Islamabad to bring the suspects to justice.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Bangalore blast. Police commissioner Bidari said forensic science experts were scouring the area for clues.
In 2008, one woman was killed and several wounded in several low-intensity blasts in Bangalore, which were blamed on homegrown militant groups from southern India.