Muslim militants behind Hyderabad mosque bombing?

India’s intelligence agencies are examining a telephone card and cellphone supposedly recovered from a deactivated exlposive found at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, scene of the deadly May 18 bombing. The card was reportedly purchased by one Shahed Bilal, said to be an operative of the Bangladesh-based Harkat ul Jehad Islami (Huji), which is in turn said to be linked to the Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

Huji was the outfit identified behind the 2005 attack on the Special Task Force headquarters in Hyderabad. It was also said to be behind last year’s Varanasi blasts, in which the famous Sankatmochan temple was targeted. Imam Walilullah Phulpur, reportedly another Huji operative, was arrested in the Varanasi bombings. India’s Economic Times said the aim of both the Varanasi and Hyderabad attacks was “to drive a communal wedge between Hindus and Muslims and trigger riots.” The report also asserted that Huji was formed in 1992 on instructions from Osama bin Laden. (Economic Times, Deccan Herald, India, May 20)

At least two Hyderabad police were injured May 19 when mourners pelted them with stones after a burial of victims from the mosque explosion and ensuing clashes. Police fired in the air and used teargas. (Daily Times, Pakistan, May 20) The death toll in Hyderabad is now is 16—five killed by police in clashes in addition to the 11 killed in the blast. (AFP, May 20)

How likely is it that even the most extremist Islamist militants would blow up an historic 17th-century mosque—no matter how alluring the fruit of communal violence?

See our last posts on India and the Hyderabad blast, and Bangladesh.