- Initial reports suggest no injuries in the blast
- The explosive was on the pavement where it detonated, said police sources
- Visuals from the area showed police personnel outside the building
A "very low-intensity" IED (improvised explosive device) was detonated near the Israeli embassy in the heart of central Delhi at 5.05 pm on Friday, the police said yesterday, adding that no injuries or property damage, apart from shattered windscreens of nearby cars, had been reported.
"A very low intensity improvised device went off... No injury to any person was reported... nor was there any damage to property, except the glass panes of three vehicles parked nearby," Anil Mittal, a Delhi Police spokesperson, was quoted by news agency PTI.
The blast took place 1.4 kilometres from Vijay Chowk, where President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior members of the government had gathered, amid extremely heavy security, for the Beating Retreat ceremony that follows the Republic Day parade.
Home Minister Amit Shah was briefed on the situation and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed "full confidence" India would investigate the blast, and "ensure the safety of Israelis and Jews who are there".
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar tweeted to say he spoke to his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, and assured him of "the fullest protection for the Embassy and diplomats".
"Spoke just now to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi about the explosion outside the Israeli Embassy. We take this very seriously. Assured him of the fullest protection for the Embassy and Israeli diplomats. Matter is under investigation and no effort will be spared to find the culprits," he said.
Spoke just now to Israeli FM @Gabi_Ashkenazi about the explosion outside the Israeli Embassy. We take this very seriously. Assured him of the fullest protection for the Embassy and Israeli diplomats. Matter is under investigation and no effort will be spared to find the culprits.— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) January 29, 2021
Mr Ashkenazi replied to say his government would cooperate fully to identify those involved.
"The Indian Foreign Minister assured me that the Indian authorities are committed to the security of all Israeli diplomatic staff and will continue to act resolutely to locate all those involved in the explosion.
I thanked him and promised full cooperation and any help required from Israel," he said.
The Indian FM assured me that the Indian authorities are committed to the security of all Israeli diplomatic staff and will continue to act resolutely to locate all those involved in the explosion.— גבי אשכנזי - Gabi Ashkenazi (@Gabi_Ashkenazi) January 29, 2021
I thanked him and promised full cooperation and any help required from Israel.
As part of the SOP (standard operating procedure) in such situations, an alert was issued at all airports, important installations and government buildings in the country, and "enhanced security measures have been put in place", the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) - which guards civil airports, nuclear and aerospace installations, the Delhi Metro and central government buildings - said.
Police sources said the explosive, which an initial probe suggests had ball bearings as part of the IED's makeup, had been wrapped up in a plastic bag and left near a tree on the pavement outside a nearby building that is just metres away from the embassy.
Samples of dust and grass were collected and sent for analysis, the sources added.
CCTV footage of the site revealed a cab had dropped two people near the embassy, a report by news agency ANI said. However, at this time it is unclear if they had any role in the blast, police sources said.
After the blast the entire area - the embassy is on Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road - was cordoned off and senior police officers, as well as those from the Special Cell and other agencies, examined the spot.
Visuals from the area showed a heavy deployment of police and security personnel standing outside the embassy, with yellow Delhi Police barricades set up at both ends of the road.
The blast came on a day the two nations marked the 29th anniversary of their diplomatic relations.
It also came days after Amit Shah met with the Delhi Police Commissioner and the heads of intelligence agencies to discuss security in the national capital. This was in the aftermath of violence on Republic Day between police and groups of farmers protesting the agriculture laws.
After that meeting additional paramilitary forces were positioned in the city.
ANI quoted an unnamed senior official as saying 15 companies of paramilitary forces - including 10 from the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) had been sent in and five more were on standby.
This is the second blast to take place involving the Israel embassy; the first was in February 2012, when a bike-borne attacker planted a 'sticky bomb' on an embassy vehicle at a traffic junction.
The explosion took place just 300 metres from the Prime Minister's residence. Four people, including the wife of an Israeli diplomat, were injured.
That Friday's blast, albeit a minor one, took place despite increased security in the national capital and after an earlier such incident involving the Israeli embassy, is something that security and intelligence agencies will be investigating very closely.
With input from ANI, PTI, Reuters