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Hyderabad - India's government was accused on Friday of major intelligence failures after twin bicycle bombings killed 16 people, as it emerged police were warned months ago of a possible attack at the site.
The near-simultaneous attacks on Thursday night outside a cinema and a bus stand in Hyderabad's Dilsukh Nagar district were the first deadly bombings in India since 2011 and triggered international condemnation including from rival Pakistan.
But with no group claiming responsibility, the government was embarrassed by revelations which the opposition said exposed systemic security failures at a time when India is on heightened alert.
The attacks also raised questions about whether Australia's cricket team would go ahead with a scheduled match against India in Hyderabad starting on March 2, although organisers said the city would still host the Test.
As investigators sifted through the wreckage in their hunt for the perpetrators, newspapers pointed the finger at Indian Mujahideen - a group which has claimed responsibility for previous attacks.
A senior detective said two of the group's militants had spoken of a possible attack during interrogation last October.
“We interrogated two militants who said they had recced various spots in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune for a possible attack,” said SN Shrivastava, a Delhi police commissioner with responsibility for anti-terror operations.
“One of the places they mentioned was Dilsukh Nagar,” he told AFP.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party seized on the revelation as a sign of intelligence failure by the Congress party-led government.
“If they had specific information, what was the central government and the state government doing? Why was nothing done to prevent such an incident?” said Sushma Swaraj, the BJP's leader in parliament.
“Every time incidents like Hyderabad blasts happen, we are told that there was an intelligence failure. Why is there always an intelligence failure?” said Communist lawmaker Basudev Acharya.
Efforts to find the perpetrators suffered a blow when investigators discovered the cables of closed-circuit TV cameras near the scene had been cut.
Indian intelligence services have been embarrassed by a series of attacks in recent years, including in Mumbai in 2008 when gunmen from Pakistan killed 166 people after storming three luxury hotels and the main train station.
Thursday's attack came when India was on alert after the recent hanging of a separatist unleashed protests in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.
Speaking at the blast scene, Home Minister Shushil Kumar Shinde acknowledged authorities had received intelligence of a possible threat of attack but said “it was not specific”.
Ajit Kumar Singh, of the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, said it followed a pattern of intelligence agencies failing to liaise properly.
“The agencies are trying to pass on the buck to someone else so that it can escape censure and be absolved of all blame,” he told AFP.
“Until the time all the agencies come together and work in tandem, attacks like these will continue to happen.”
Shinde told parliament the death toll stood at 16, with 117 injured. He also confirmed the crude devices were planted on bicycles.
Police said three of the dead were college students. One of the most seriously injured was a pregnant woman.
Sambaraju Shylaja, a receptionist caught up in the blasts, spoke of the panic as people feared there could be yet more attacks.
“Everything was flying around, everything was so threatening and horrible, bodies were lying around everywhere. Everyone was rushing for their lives,” she told AFP.
Hyderabad is one of the main hubs of the country's computing industry and hosts local offices of Google and Microsoft.
Commenting on the Test in Hyderabad which begins March 2, a spokesman for the Indian cricket board said it had been decided that it “should not be shifted”.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, with the team in Chennai for the opening Test which began on Friday, said: “As far as I'm concerned we are playing the second Test in Hyderabad next week.”
The attacks prompted widespread condemnation, with new US Secretary of State John Kerry expressing sympathies for the “brave people” of Hyderabad.
And Pakistan, accused by New Delhi of responsibility for previous attacks, said “all acts of terrorism are unjustifiable regardless of their motivation”. - AFP