New Delhi bombings seen as declaration of 'war'

Blasts that killed 20 in the Indian capital on Saturday are forcing the government to confront a domestic terrorist group. But some officials still point the finger at longtime rival Pakistan.

A string of blasts in India's capital on Saturday is forcing authorities there to confront a domestic terrorist group, even as some are pointing the finger at Pakistan.

"Five explosions within half an hour caused havoc in one of the city's central parks and crowded shopping areas on Saturday evening – one of the busiest times of the weekend," the English-language daily The Hindu reported on Sunday. Police also launched raids across New Delhi, "detaining about a dozen people as part of efforts to track down the bombers responsible for a series of blasts that left more than 20 dead and a further 100 injured."

A home-grown Indian terrorist group was said to be responsible, according to Agence France-Presse.

The attacks were claimed by the Indian Mujahideen, a shadowy Muslim militant group that also owned responsibility for bombings in July that killed at least 45 people in the cities of Ahmedabad and Bangalore.
In the past, India has blamed neighboring Pakistan for orchestrating attacks on Indian soil, but the emergence of the Indian Mujahideen has forced authorities to confront the specter of an effective, home-grown militant force. Security experts say the formation of the outfit may be an effort to create a fresh identity for groups banned by the Indian government over the past few years such as the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

The Business Standard of India reports that, according to an e-mail sent to the media shortly before the blasts, the attacks are retribution for India's mistreatment of its 130 million Muslims.

The Indian Mujahideen, the terrorist group that claimed to have executed Saturday's serial blasts in the capital, is apparently seeking revenge against the perceived 'injustices' on Muslims across India – demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 and the Gujarat riots of 2002....
Seeking inspiration from the Allah and the Quranic verses, this group, which is believed to be headed by Subhan alias Tauqir, a former Wipro employee, also refers to "killings of Muslim brethren in Kashmir" during the recent Amarnath land crisis and the "atrocities" unleashed on the "innocent" Muslims in the aftermath of recent blasts in Gujarat.

An editorial in The Times of India called the attacks a declaration of war, cautioning that drastic measures, including some affecting civil liberties, would have to be taken.

We are at war. The string of blasts in Delhi on Saturday, which killed 30 people and injured over 90, is the fourth attack by terrorists on a major Indian city in the span of four months....
At this moment of crisis, some of the liberties that we take for granted might have to be curbed to ensure that terrorists, who follow no norms and rules, are effectively restrained. Such measures must be debated – if needed, in a special session of Parliament – by the major political parties and implemented as quickly as possible.

The blasts have highlighted both the sophistication of Indian terrorist groups and the weakness of domestic security, reports the Financial Times.

Prakash Jawadkar, spokesman of the opposition Bharatiya Janata party, a Hindu nationalist party, called the attacks "a security failure and a policy failure" and accused the government of "giving priority to petty politics rather than national security".
"It is very clear from the frequency with which they [the militants] are attacking that they are waging a war against India," he said. "Central and regional government has not realised the danger ... They have not exhibited a national will to combat terrorism."
The city-by-city strikes have given the impression that the militants can strike at will. As in previous attacks, the bombers favoured targets where affluent middle class Indians congregate.

As critics lashed out against the government, some officials began pointing the finger across the border at Pakistan, according to the Hindustan Times.

Charging Pakistan with supporting terror modules operating in India, Defence Minister AK Antony on Monday said it was a "serious" matter and the country will defeat the designs of the destabilising forces.
"Militants are getting support from across the border and it is a fact. Already the home minister (Shivraj Patil) and others in the government have expressed their opinion on this. It is a matter of serious concern," Antony told reporters in New Delhi on the sidelines of a seminar by a defence thinktank.

In Pakistan, observers advised avoiding the usual blame game. An editorial in The Daily Times, a leading English-language daily, cautioned:

In the coming days, comment will flood the Indian media and will doubtless retrace the past pattern of casting suspicion on the Indian Muslims and reflecting on the ongoing contest with Pakistan in Afghanistan....
It is tragic that India and Pakistan are moving towards conflict even when they know they are being tricked into it by elements within them who don't want peace to prevail. Recent "enactments" of terrorism on both sides have put the peace process on hold and there is no politician big enough to rise above the smoke of these blasts to complete the job of normalising relations. In fact, as days pass, the two nuclear-armed states may look less and less able to pursue the road they know is right.
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