Terror bombs rock Mumbai rail

Once again, someone feels compelled to prove the intellectual superiority of their position by killing scores of random civilians. Some details from the Financial Times, July 11 (link added):

Within minutes, seven explosions on the railway that forms Mumbai's spinal cord left at least 163 people dead and possibly more than 1,000 wounded in one of the worst terrorist attacks in India.

The first explosion took place at about 6.30pm, at the height of the rush hour, with a further six blasts ripping apart commuter trains over the next 20 minutes, sending shrapnel through carriages normally filled with 400-500 people each.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, which echoed the attacks in Madrid in 2004.

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, who has been criticised for failing to do more to rein in local militant groups, condemned the blasts, saying they were "despicable acts of terrorism".

[...]

A number of smaller explosions in Srinigar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, earlier in the day had indicated an intensification of militant activity, but security forces have yet to announce links between the two sets of blasts.

As he did last October, when a wave of bombs devastated markets in New Delhi, killing 59 people, Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, said the attacks were the work of terrorists but he refused to speculate on the identity of the perpetrators.

"The series of blasts in Jammu Kashmir and in Mumbai are cowardly attempts to spread a feeling of fear and terror among our citizens," Mr Singh said, condemning the attacks as "shameful acts aimed at our peace-loving people".

Mumbai police said the explosives were too sophisticated to be linked to the small, isolated rioting at the weekend involving the radical Shiv Sena, a powerful regional party of Hindi fundamentalists.

The BBC offers this round-up of the usual suspects (we've added the link):

Mumbai is no stranger to violence.

In August 2003, more than 55 people died in twin bomb blasts in the city's financial district.

And in 1993, some 250 people died and nearly 1,000 were injured in a series of bomb blasts which rocked the city.

Both attacks were said to have carried out by Islamic militants allegedly at the behest of Mumbai's criminal underworld.

They were believed to be reprisal attacks in response to religious violence elsewhere in India in which Muslims had been targeted.

It is still not clear who is behind these latest bombings and certainly investigators will be puzzled over the motive.

Earlier on Tuesday, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir witnessed a series of grenade attacks carried out by suspected separatist militants.

It is unlikely that the two are related although India's security agencies will certainly look for any links.

But perhaps the closest related event took place last year, when the Indian capital Delhi was also rocked by a series of blasts.

As in Mumbai, it was ordinary Indians who were targeted in a series of blasts which took place in congested markets and shopping areas where the impact was the greatest.

'Lifeline'

Mumbai is India's commercial capital and its rail network is often described as the city's lifeline.

Two major lines cut through the city, running north to south, bringing in commuters from distant suburbs.

An attack on the rail network does not merely affect a large number of people, it is also designed to bring the city to a halt.

Tuesday's blasts took place on the city's Western Line which connects the city centre with some of the more affluent suburbs.

The victims of the attacks cut across the city's ethnic, religious and class lines affecting both blue and white collar workers.

Even as investigators piece through the wreckage at the bomb sites, searching for leads, it is quite evident that the explosives used were both sophisticated and powerful.

And the co-ordinated nature of the blasts, occurring in near succession, speak of a degree of organisation that few can command.

Kashmir question

Security agencies and investigators will quite likely look for any links to some of the militant groups that have been accused of carrying out similar attacks in the past.

That includes both groups fighting Indian rule in the disputed state of Kashmir as well as militant groups with ties to Mumbai's organised crime syndicates that have been implicated in previous attacks in the city.

In the past, Indian officials have been quick to accuse Pakistan of supporting or providing a safe haven to several anti-Indian groups.

Attacks such as the one on India's parliament in December 2001 led swiftly to a war of words between the two South Asian rivals.

But a peace process has been under way for more than two years and Islamabad has been quick to condemn the blasts, something that will be welcomed in India.

For the moment, the main challenge confronting the authorities is to dispel any sense of panic among the city's residents.

In particular, they will hope to contain any strong reaction which could upset the city's delicate religious balance.

Al-Jazeera on the Kashmir attacks:

Eight tourists have been killed and at least 35 people wounded in grenade attacks in Indian Kashmir's main city.

Local police and witnesses said a grenade thrown inside a tourist bus in Srinagar killed six people and wounded 15 others.

Another blast outside a tourist reception centre in Srinagar wounded six.

Shabir Ahmad, a shopkeeper who saw the attack on the bus, told Reuters: "I saw a huge orange flash coming out of the bus with a loud explosion."

Television channels said some of the tourists killed and wounded were from the Indian state of West Bengal.

A second grenade attack in Srinagar's busy Regal Chowk injured four people who were travelling in a car registered outside Kashmir, police said.

In two more attacks on private passenger jeeps near Lal Chowk, two tourists were killed and ten people were injured.

No group has claimed responsibility for any of the five attacks.

Decrease in violence

Many tourists visit the Himalayan region each year, despite fighting in which more than 45,000 people have died since 1989.

Violence between India and Pakistan has decreased since 2004, and more than 600,000 tourists visited Kashmir last year.

Muslim fighters have been attacking visitors since the start of the tourist season in April.

At least 21 people were wounded on May 31 in a grenade attack on a tourist bus near Dal Lake.

Muzaffar Baig, Kashmir's deputy chief minister, told a TV channel: "We think there is a concerted effort which has some support from across the border to not only create a state of terror in the state but also destroy the industry of tourism."

India has accused Pakistan of arming and training militants to wage a revolt in its part of Kashmir. Islamabad has denied this.

India's Business Standard offered this report on the Shiv Sena protest, July 10:

Shiv Sena activists went on the rampage in Mumbai and other parts of the state after the news of desecration of a bust of late Meenatai Thackeray, wife of Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, spread like wild fire.

Taking cue from Sena's executive president Uddhav Thackeray's provocative statement — "If cartoons published in far off places like Denmark have impact, then incidents taking place in Mumbai will have an echo too", Sena activists burnt a private bus in Dadar and forced closure of shops in Dadar and adjoining areas.

Incidents of stone pelting on buses and local trains were reported from areas including Vikroli and Andheri. The angry Sena activists stopped the suburban train movement for more than an hour, forcing commuters to walk down the tracks to reach their destination.

Stone pelting and 'rasta roko' incidents were also reported from other parts of the state including Pune, Aurangabad, Nanded and Nashik. In Pune, some Sena activists tried to stage a rasta roko on old Pune-Mumbai highway but alert police foiled their attempt.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh called a meeting of senior state officials to take stock of the situation. The meeting was attended by Deputy Chief Minster and Home Minister R R Patil, Director General of Police P S Pasricha, Mumbai police commissioner A N Roy and Chief Secretary D K Shankaran.

Talking to mediapersons after the meeting, Deshmukh appealed to the people to maintain peace and assured that the elements who had desecrated the bust of Meenatai would be arrested soon.

However, he warned that, stern action would also be taken against those spreading violence and hatred.

See our last posts on India, Kashmir and terrorist idiocy on the Subcontinent.

OK, maybe not completely random

From the New York Times, July 13:

As India's magnet city quietly arose Wednesday on the morning after a series of eight bombings along its suburban commuter train line, a closer portrait of a carefully calibrated crime emerged. The bombers, it turned out, systematically chose first-class men’s compartments, poking a poisoned finger in the eye of the city’s white-collar establishment.

The bombers, who remain unknown, most likely used militarystyle plastic explosives, the Indian authorities said. The synchronized nature of the blasts during the evening rush hour, intelligence experts said, pointed to the use of timers. As of Wednesday the toll stood at 183 killed and 700 wounded.

Judging by the lists of those casualties posted at city hospitals, the victims were