Police hunt for suspect behind India restaurant explosion

Police hunt for suspect behind India restaurant explosion

NEW DELHI - Agence France-Presse
Police hunt for suspect behind India restaurant explosion

This photo taken on September 12, 2015 shows people gathering at the site of a powerful explosion in Petlawad in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. AFP photo

Police were hunting on Sept. 13 for a suspect who illegally stored explosives in a restaurant building in central India that sparked a deadly blast, killing 88 people and injuring nearly 100.

The blast occurred in the town of Petlawad in Madhya Pradesh state’s Jhabua district on Sept. 12 morning when many office workers and schoolchildren were having breakfast in the restaurant and many laborers waited at a crowded bus stand near the building.

“The official death toll is 88, but the actual number may be higher, nearly 100. That will be confirmed soon,” senior Jhabua district police official Seema Alava told AFP by phone, adding that about 100 others were injured and rescue operations had been wrapped up.     

She said police earlier thought the explosion was triggered by a gas cylinder, which detonated explosives that were stored illegally in the restaurant building and amplified its impact, destroying neighboring buildings and vehicles.

“It was the other way around. The explosives in the building exploded first... extreme heat sparked a urea nitrate chemical reaction and then that was it. Everything went off after that,” Alava said.

She said a suspect, Rajendra Kasawa, who has been on the run with his brothers since Sept. 12, had illegally stored urea, gelatine sticks, detonators and other explosives used for digging wells, construction and mining in a warehouse in the building.

Although Kasawa had a license for the material, Alava said he stored them “in an unauthorized way in a residential area” and therefore, been booked for culpable homicide and unlawful possession of explosives.       
“We were up almost all night. We will find him, it is only a matter of time,” she said.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan visited Petlawad, 950 kilometers (590 miles) south of New Delhi, on Sept. 13.

“I’m deeply saddened by the incident at Petlawad. I could not sleep the whole night,” Chouhan told reporters before heading to the blast site.