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Can bombings derail India-Pakistan peace?

(Page 2 of 2)



"It's painful looking through dead bodies," said Sagar Vyapari, a young boy who was looking for his missing father at Bhabha Hospital. "I'm tired searching from one hospital to another."

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With water and biscuits by his bed, Bhupendra Joshi, one of the few patients left in the ward, is looking forward to going home after foot surgery Friday. He was injured jumping from his train compartment after hearing an explosion.

Although the commuter traffic was slightly lower than usual Wednesday, trains were running – and many of them chockablock. "There's no point being scared," said Archana Shelar, a student who was about to board a local train to get to her IT class. "There is no other affordable conveyance besides local trains in Mumbai."

The blasts on Tuesday were highly coordinated, but they were not the first such attack on India, nor the largest. In 1993, serial blasts on commuter trains and at the Bombay Stock Exchange killed 250 people.

Suspicion almost immediately turned to the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e Tayyaba, a militant group organized at a religious seminary in Muridke, near the city of Lahore. The group denied any role in what it called "inhuman and barbaric acts." But Indian intelligence agencies told Indian television station NDTV that a Lashkar activist captured in Kashmir revealed the plan to target Mumbai as recently as June 30.

"This is Lashkar-e Tayyaba and Jaish-e Mohammad's handiwork," says Anil Kamboj, an expert on terrorist groups at the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis in New Delhi.

At least 32 Lashkar activists have been arrested in the state of Maharashtra (which includes Mumbai) by Indian police over the past four months with increasing amounts of RDX explosives in their possession, and Mr. Kamboj says there were clear signs that Lashkar was preparing for something big.

"There were peace talks going on and these groups don't want those talks to progress," says Kamboj. "They operate in very small cells of five to 10 people. And they have entered deep inside India, in Bangalore, in Mumbai, in Delhi. They have been able to establish linkages inside the country, maybe local people are helping them or they have people who have infiltrated before."

After the US listed Lashkar as a terrorist organization in 2001, Lashkar closed its doors, allegedly renamed itself Jamat-ud-Dawa, and moved its operational base to the city of Muzaffarabad, in the Pakistani-controlled section of Kashmir.

Sharing the ideology of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, the privately-funded Lashkar may receive training or inspiration from bin Laden's terror group. But Lashkar's main motivations are local issues such as the ongoing rivalry between the Pakistan and India and their dispute over the territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

"These are extremist Islamist groups," says Sahni. "Lashkar-e Tayyaba, Jaish-e Mohammad, and Harkatul Mujahideen have all declared their allegiance to bin Laden and his International Islamic Front. Where are they based? Pakistan. Where is the chief of Lashkar-e Tayyaba, Hafiz Mohammad Sayid? He's in Pakistan."

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