India on alert as death toll from bombs rises

10:43, 28 July 2008
World
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Motive for 17 low-intensity blasts that hit Ahmedabad blasts not known

Metropolitan areas of India were on high alert Sunday after a wave of synchronized bombs that hit the western Indian city of Ahmedabad killed at least 49 people and wounded more than 114, police reported, according to CNN.

The streets of Ahmedabad were calm, with anxious residents staying indoors and the Indian Army marching through parts of the city to instill a sense of security among residents.

"There hasn`t been any outbreak of violence," said Ahmedabad police Cpl.-in-charge M.N. Raghela. "The army, police and paramilitary forces are patrolling the city, and residents are being very supportive."

Seventeen low intensity blasts went off within a span of 70 minutes Saturday night, all within a 6-mile (10-km) radius.

By 4:15 p.m. Sunday (6:45 a.m. ET), the death toll had climbed to 49. The official number of wounded is 114, according to Ahmedabad police, but Raghela said the number of injuries surpassed 200.

The serial blasts occurred barely 24 hours after nine similar explosions rocked Bangalore, known as the Silicon Valley of India. Two people were killed and six injured in those explosions.

In both cities, bicycles, bags and lunch boxes were repositories for the bombs, authorities said.

"It is a conspiracy to unsettle the country," Union Minister of State for Home Sri Prakash Jaiswal told CNN-IBN Saturday.

Across India, security has been stepped up at airports, railways stations, markets and hospitals, The Associated Press reported.

Police recovered two unexploded bombs around Ahmedabad Sunday. One was found in a garbage receptacle; the second by the side of the road, police said.

One of Saturday`s explosions hit a bus stop, while others detonated at a railway station and on a bus. Several also went off at, or close to, hospitals where the injured were being taken.

Authorities raided an apartment rented by an American in Mumbai, 338 miles (545 km) away after tracing an e-mail that claimed responsibility for the blasts, CNN`s sister network CNN-IBN reported Sunday.

The apartment resident claimed that his Internet account had been hacked a few days ago, the television station said.

Authorities are also investigating another email sent to Muslim actors who are part of the Mumbai-based Indian film industry. The email reportedly asked them to stop working, the television station said.

No arrests have been made, although police reportedly rounded up 30 individuals in connection with the blasts, CNN-IBN added.

The network was among several media outlets to receive an e-mail, purportedly from the Muslim militant group Indian Mujahedeen, warning about an attack. The message was also sent to the country`s Intelligence Bureau.

But afterward, the Islamic militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJi) -- or the Movement of the Islamic Holy War -- claimed responsibility for the bombings, CNN-IBN said.

Analysts say that cross-pollination between terror groups can make it difficult to distinguish between them.

India ranks among the countries where terrorism is most common, according to the U.S. State Department.

Authorities do not know the motive for the Ahmedabad blasts but have blamed past attacks on Islamic militants, alleging they were fomenting unrest between the country`s Hindu majority and Muslim minority.

Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat state, was the scene of deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 that left about 1,000 people dead. Map »

The violence was sparked after 60 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire. While the cause of the blaze was not clear, some Hindus blamed Muslims for the blaze and retaliated.

The two groups claiming responsibility for Saturday`s blasts have a history of similar acts.

HuJi is blamed for several attacks inside India, including one at the American Centre in Calcutta that killed five policemen in 2002.

It is also banned in neighboring Bangladesh where the group is accused of carrying out several attacks, including a foiled plot to kill the country`s former prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, in 2002.

The United States considers Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJi) a terrorist organization.

The second group, Indian Mujahedeen, claimed responsibility in May for near-simultaneous bomb attacks that killed 63 people in the northwest Indian city of Jaipur. In that attack, the group declared "open war" against India in retaliation for what it said were 60 years of Muslim persecution and the country`s support of United States policies.

The group also claimed responsibility for a series of similar attacks outside courts in three north Indian cities in the state of Uttar Pradesh in November 2007. More than a dozen people were killed and 80 injured.

In May, security analysts described Indian Mujahedeen as a relatively unknown group. It may be a new home-grown terror network, an alias for an existing group or a foreign militant organization.

CNN

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