Thu, May 15, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Curfew imposed on Indian city after bombings kill 80

AP , JAIPUR, INDIA

Police imposed a daylong curfew in the western Indian city of Jaipur yesterday to prevent any retaliatory violence after a series of blasts in crowded areas left at least 80 people dead.

Authorities suspect Islamic militants were behind the blasts and moved quickly to stop any potential clashes between the city’s Hindu majority and its sizable Muslim minority. Police were deployed in force and people kept off the streets of Jaipur’s old walled city, where all seven bombs went off on Tuesday.

The bombers may have been aiming “to create communal tension,” said Vasundhara Raje, the chief minister of Rajasthan state, of which Jaipur is the capital. “But there is peace in the city. The curfew is a precaution.”

With police seemingly everywhere, streets in the old city were largely devoid of pedestrians and shops throughout the rest of Jaipur were also shuttered.

The attack came a week before Indian Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee was to visit Pakistan to discuss the rivals’ four-year peace process.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said Mukherjee would press Islamabad to act against Pakistan-based Islamic militant groups, which India accuses Pakistan of backing.

“The absence of violence and stopping cross-border terrorism is a very high priority for India,” Menon told reporters.

But he stopped short of alleging a Pakistani hand in the attack.

“We are still in the process of investigating. I don’t want to jump to conclusions,” he said.

Police in Jaipur have so far questioned nearly a dozen people, but no arrests have been made. Raje told reporters that authorities only “have some slender leads.”

Nearly 200 people were wounded in the explosions in the city in western India known for its pink-hued palaces, said A.K. Jain, a top Rajasthan police official. Police said an eighth bomb was found and defused.

“Obviously, it’s a terrorist plot,” said A.S. Gill, the police chief of Rajasthan. “The way it has been done, the attempt was to cause the maximum damage to human life.”

The blasts began around 7:30pm on Tuesday. One went off at a market near a temple dedicated to the Hindu monkey god Hanuman. Tuesday is the day of worship set aside for the deity and the temple was crowded with people offering prayers on the way home from work.

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