Bombings may threaten India-Pakistan relations
Islamic militants claim to be targeting Indian cities to stoke communal tensions.
Indian cities are on high alert after a series of explosions ripped through the western city of Ahmedabad on Saturday, killing at least 45 people and wounding 160. The blasts, which occurred a day after bombings in the southern city of Bangalore, are the latest in a string of attacks in India believed to be the work of Islamic terrorists.Skip to next paragraph
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A little known group calling itself the "Indian Mujahideen" claimed responsibility for the Ahmedabad bombings, just as it had for an attack in Jaipur in May that killed 60 people. But security analysts and intelligence officials are doubtful about these claims and instead suspect that militant Islamic groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh are behind the attacks.
"The way in which the attack in Ahmedabad took place – the multiplicity of the bombs and the way in which they were coordinated – suggests a level of expertise not yet associated with any Indian group," says Uday Bhaskar, a security analyst and former director of New Delhi's Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses. "It is reasonable to say this group has benefited from external involvement," he adds.
Other observers say the "Indian Mujahideen" was coined to cover the involvement of Pakistani groups, although few here doubt that Indian Muslims are involved at some level.
Saturday's bombings occurred in two waves. The first series of explosions detonated in crowded markets; the second wave, less than half an hour later, targeted two hospitals where the injured had been taken. Television footage showed blood-covered victims writhing in agony on hospital floors. In all, there were 17 explosions, caused by crudely made devices that peppered victims with red-hot ball bearings and shrapnel.
The day before, one person was killed and six wounded when eight bombs exploded in quick succession in Bangalore. No group has claimed responsibility for the Bangalore bombings.
Both attacks – like the one in Jaipur – occurred in states run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India's main opposition party.
Ahmedabad, the main city in Gujarat, is especially vulnerable to communal tensions. In 2002, a train fire that killed members of a Hindu nationalist group sparked Hindu-Muslim riots in which over 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, died.
"Await five minutes for the revenge of Gujarat," read an e-mail sent to television stations, purportedly from the Indian Mujahideen, moments before Saturday's explosions.