Three almost simultaneous explosions struck during Wednesday’s evening rush hour in Mumbai (Bombay), the commercial capital of India and scene of numerous previous terror attacks. Residents are using Twitter and a public Google spreadsheet to offer stranded commuters places to stay in various neighborhoods.
Tonight’s attacks occurred in crowded areas, including the neighborhood of Dadar, the business district of Opera House, and the jewelry market Jhaveri Bazaar. An Indian official in the state of Maharashtra was reporting that 17 people were killed, and some 54 people were injured. Early reports indicate the toll is likely to rise.
Mumbai has already seen more than half-a-dozen attacks since 1993 that have killed around 700 people. Many have been attributed by Indian officials to the city’s Islamic underworld or the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
The most infamous attack occurred on Nov. 26, 2008, when gunmen rampaged through luxury hotels, a Jewish center, and other locations, killing 164 people. The event, dubbed 26/11, became India’s version of 9/11 and plunged relations with Pakistan into a deep freeze, as it became clear that the attack was from LeT with alleged help from elements inside the Pakistani military.
The attacks today come at a time of thawing relations between India and Pakistan, with a bilateral dialogue restarting in February. It’s unclear at this point who is behind the attacks, but the fledgling talks would likely collapse if India comes to suspect Islamic militants from Pakistan.
Early analysis from Stratfor, a Texas-based intelligence firm, says the use of remote detonators rather than a suicide assault team like that put together by LeT in 2008 suggests “more amateurish groups, such as the Indian Mujahideen, who have targeted crowded urban areas before.”
The Indian Mujahideen, a domestic group, have been blamed for the bombing of a German bakery in Pune early last year.
Pakistan’s president and prime minister issued a joint statement condemning today’s attacks.
“The president and the prime minister have expressed their deepest sympathies to the Indian leadership on the loss of lives, injuries, and damage to property in Mumbai,” the statement read.
No immediate breakthroughs had been expected in the Indo-Pakistan talks, but the United States worked behind the scenes for their resumption. US officials have expressed concerns in the past that another large-scale attack on India bearing Pakistani fingerprints could touch off hostilities.
“If another Mumbai attack takes place in India, if we are not able to work with India to deflect that attack, it very well could lead to increased tensions and possibly some kind of exchange between these two nuclear nations,” said former US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer in May.
In talks with her counterpart last month in Islamabad, India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said her country was still seeking “satisfactory closure” over Pakistan’s response to 2008 Mumbai attacks, including trials related to the attack within Pakistan.