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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 July 2006, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Experts puzzle over Mumbai blasts
By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Mumbai

A day after a seven blasts rocked India's commercial capital, Mumbai, the focus is turning swiftly to the investigation.

Relatives grieve for victims
Hundreds were killed or injured in the blasts

The wreckage from the blast sites has been carted to a railway yard in the far north of the city where forensic experts and special branch police are sifting through it looking for any leads.

And they are keeping their cards very closely to their chest.

Senior police officials and government ministers are broadly describing it as a terrorist attack, but saying it is too early to point a finger at any particular group.

Privately, many of them say that there are very few groups in the region who have the resources and skills to carry out what were highly coordinated attacks involving the use of high-grade explosives.

"The list of groups who could have carried out this attack is very small," says Ajai Sahni of the Indian Institute of Conflict Management.

Militant links?

Mumbai is no stranger to violence.

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

First class train carriage in Mumbai, the day after the blasts
People were back on the railways on Wednesday, despite the blasts
And in 1993, some 250 people died and nearly 1,000 were injured in a series of bomb explosions.

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

Already fingers are being pointed at one of the major militant groups operating in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Lashkar is one of the deadliest groups in the region, believed to have close ties with al-Qaeda and banned in both India and Pakistan.

The group has condemned the Mumbai bombings.

On Tuesday, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir witnessed a series of grenade attacks carried out by suspected separatists.

map

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 was the case in Mumbai, ordinary Indians were targeted in a series of blasts in congested markets and shopping areas, where the impact was greatest.

Widest possible impact

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

Many here will invariable draw comparisons with attacks elsewhere - including the Madrid and London bombings.
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 cut across the city's ethnic, religious and class lines - affecting both blue and white-collar workers.

It was clearly meant have the widest possible impact.

The city is India 's financial capital and home to some of its richest business leaders - any attack on it is often seen as a direct assault on the country's economy.

Many here will invariable draw comparisons with attacks elsewhere - including the Madrid and London bombings.

While it is likely to be some time before the investigators announce any specific leads, it is possible that they will examine if groups operating in India are drawing inspiration from others around the globe.

And that is something that could well concern the country's security and intelligence community.


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Devastation caused by the Mumbai blasts



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