Fri, Jul 15, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Indian police search for clues after blasts

Reuters, MUMBAI, INDIA

Indian police sifted through forensic evidence and security camera footage, and questioned members of a home-grown Islamist militant group for clues to the worst bomb blasts in Mumbai since Pakistan-based militants attacked the financial hub in 2008, officials said yesterday.

There has so far been no claim of responsibility for setting off three near-simultaneous improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which were packed with ammonium nitrate, during evening rush hour on Wednesday, killing 18 people.

“There was no intelligence regarding a militant attack in Mumbai. That is not a failure of intelligence agencies,” Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told a press conference. “[We] know that perpetrators have attacked and have worked in a very, very clandestine manner.”

He said it was too early to point the finger at a particular group, but he said the “coordinated terror attacks” could be in retaliation for a number of plots recently stopped by police.

The home ministry said in a statement police were interrogating some Indian Mujahidin members who were arrested some days before the attack, but it had no specific leads on who could be responsible.

Indian Mujahidin is a shadowy home-grown militant group known for its city-to-city bombing campaigns using small explosive devices.

The group has been accused of ties to Pakistani militant groups involved in attacks in Indian Kashmir as well as elsewhere in the country.

“It’s very likely coordinated by Indian Mujahidin looking at the severity and scale of the attacks — in the past they’ve used tiffin carrier bombs and IEDs,” said Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based al-Qaeda expert.

The bombings were the biggest attacks on Mumbai since the 2008 assaults killed 166 people, raised tensions with nuclear rival Pakistan and left a city on edge.

After a two-year chill following those attacks, India and Pakistan have been trying to normalize ties and later this month their foreign ministers are scheduled to hold talks.

Pakistani leaders were swift to condemn the bombings, as was US President Barack Obama. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is also due in India for scheduled talks next week.

“We live in the most troubled neighborhood in the world. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the epicenter of terrorism,” Chidambaram said.

Chidambaram said 18 people had died in the attacks, lowering an earlier figure of 21. He said 23 of the 131 wounded and admitted to hospitals were in a critical state.

The bombings were centered mainly in south Mumbai’s bustling jewelry market districts, crowded with diamond and precious metals traders and artisans.

The blasts occurred at rush hour at about 6:45pm on Wednesday within minutes of each other. One bomb was placed at the side of the road, concealed under garbage and a food cart, another hidden under an umbrella and a third on the roof of a bus stop.

“These IEDs were not crude devices, but it seems that they were made with some sophistication. Those who made them had prior training,” Indian Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh told reporters.

In Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its travel alert for India would remain yellow.

A yellow alert warns travelers to take extra precautions and reassess their travel plans to a country, ministry deputy spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said.

The ministry is considering raising the alert level, Hsia said. He reminded travelers to stay away from crowded places and religious gatherings.

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