Sunday, July 27, 2008
Islamic Group Claims Responsibility for India Bombings That Killed 45; 30 Detained
AHMADABAD, India —
Authorities scoured a western Indian city Sunday for those responsible for a series of bombings that killed at least 45 people, detaining 30 people as a little-known group claimed responsibility for the attack. It was the second series of blasts in India in two days.
"In the name of Allah the Indian Mujahedeen strike again! Do whatever you can, within 5 minutes from now, feel the terror of Death!" said an e-mail from the group sent to several Indian television stations minutes before the blasts began. The e-mail's subject line said "Await 5 minutes for the revenge of Gujarat," an apparent reference to 2002 riots in the western state which left 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead. The historic city of Ahmadabad is one of the largest cities in Gujarat and was the scene of much of the 2002 violence.
State government spokesman Jaynarayan Vyas said 45 people were killed and 161 wounded when at least 16 bombs went off Saturday evening in several crowded neighborhoods. The attack came a day after seven smaller blasts killed two people in the southern technology hub of Bangalore.
Another unexploded bomb was found and defused early Sunday, the city's police commissioner, O.P. Mathur, said. He said police had detained 30 people in their investigation.
Investigators in Surat, a city about 160 miles south of Ahmadabad, found a car carrying detonators and a liquid that police suspect may be ammonium nitrate, a chemical often used in explosive devices, city police Chief R.M.S. Brar told reporters.
Cities around the country were put on alert and security was stepped up at markets, hospitals, airports and train stations.
The e-mail was sent by a group calling itself Indian Mujahedeen which was unknown before May, when it said it was behind a series of bombings in Jaipur, also in western India, that killed 61 people. Saturday's e-mail, sent from a Yahoo account and written in English, was made available to AP by CNN-IBN, one of the TV stations that received the warning.
In its e-mail, the group did not mention the bombings in Bangalore and it was not clear if the attacks were connected.
Some TV stations reported Sunday that police in Mumbai, India's business hub, had traced the e-mail to an address in the city but officials denied this.
"An e-mail was received by many news organizations. We are inquiring into that. We haven't traced it yet," city police Chief A.N. Roy said.
The Saturday bombs went off in two separate spates. The first, near a busy market, left some of the dead sprawled beside stands piled high with fruit, next to twisted bicycles. The second group of blasts went off near a hospital.
The side of a bus was blown off and its windows shattered, while another vehicle was engulfed in flames. Most of the blasts took place in the narrow lanes of the older part of Ahmadabad, which is tightly packed with homes and small businesses. Bomb-sniffing dogs scoured the areas.
Distraught relatives of the victims crowded the city's hospitals. One of the wounded was a 6-year-old boy whose father was killed in the blasts. He lay in a hospital bed with his arms covered in bandages and wounds on his face.
Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state where Ahmadabad is located, called the blasts "a crime against humanity." He said the bombings appeared to have been masterminded by a group or groups who "are using a similar modus operandi all over the country."
"Anti-national elements have been trying to create panic among the people of our country. Today's blasts in Ahmadabad seem to be part of the same strategy," federal Home Minister Shivraj Patil told reporters in New Delhi.
India has been hit repeatedly by bombings in recent years. Nearly all have been blamed on Islamic militants who allegedly want to provoke violence between India's Hindu majority and Muslim minority, although officials rarely offer hard evidence implicating a specific group.
The perpetrators also rarely claim responsibility — a fact that raised doubts about the Indian Mujahedeen when it took credit in May for attacking Jaipur.
Fears that an attack could spark religious riots are real in India, which has seen sporadic violence between Hindus and Muslims since independence from Britain in 1947.
Those fears were amplified by the recent history of the 2002 religious riots. The violence was triggered by a fire that killed 60 passengers on a train packed with Hindu pilgrims. Hindu extremists blamed the deaths on Muslims and rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods, although the cause of the blaze remains unclear.
Ahmadabad is also known for the elegant architecture of its mosques and mausoleums, a rich blend of Muslim and Hindu styles. It was founded in the 15th century and served as a sultanate, fortified in 1487 with a wall six miles in circumference.