July 11, 2006

Mumbai train blasts kill at least 135

By Krittivas Mukherjee

MUMBAI (Reuters) - At least 135 people were killed and
hundreds injured in seven bomb explosions on packed commuter
trains and stations on Tuesday in Mumbai, India's financial
hub, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the
evening rush hour attacks, the worst in the city for more than
a decade.

But suspicion was likely to center on Muslim militants
fighting New Delhi's rule in disputed Kashmir, who have been
blamed for several bomb attacks in India in the past.

City Police Commissioner A.N. Roy told Reuters 135 people
were killed while Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the state's
top elected official, said 300 people were injured in the
blasts, which took place in the space of around 10 minutes.

"We are not sure if it is RDX or not," Roy said, referring
to the possible use of high-powered plastic explosives.

Commuters fled suburban rail stations in panic after the
explosions and mobile phone lines were jammed.

Television pictures showed twisted rail carriages and
people in torn and bloodstained clothes carrying the dead and
wounded on stretchers as steady monsoon rain fell.

A policeman was shown carrying two white, blood-stained
bundles of what appeared to be body parts. Local media said the
blasts appeared to have targeted first-class compartments.

Hundreds of dazed passengers walked along the railway

"The blasts happened when the trains were most crowded,"
D.K Shankaran, chief secretary of the state of Maharashtra, of
which Mumbai is the capital, told Reuters.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for calm and Sonia
Gandhi, leader of the ruling Congress party, expressed her

"I urge the people to remain calm, not to believe rumors
and carry on their activity normally," Singh said in a
statement, calling the explosions a "shameful act."

Senior ministers and security officials were to travel to
Mumbai from New Delhi later on Tuesday.


The blasts occurred throughout Mumbai's western suburbs,
which are linked to the downtown office and business areas
mainly by a train network that is used by some 6.5 million
people each day.

"We have doused the flames at all the blast sites and now
we are taking the injured to hospitals," A. Jhandwal, Mumbai's
fire services chief, told Reuters.

Dazed survivors with wounds from injuries to heads, legs
and hands waited at railway stations, with little sign of any
emergency medical aid.

"We heard a loud blast in one of the train compartments.
When we rushed there and looked, we saw people with severed
limbs and grievous injuries," one witness told the CNN-IBN news
channel, standing in a blood-spattered coach.

"There were no police or railway people to help." Officials
said five trains had been hit and two stations.

"All suburban train services have been suspended and search
operations are going on," the chairman of India's Railway
Board, J.P. Batra, told reporters.

The first attack took place at 6.24 p.m. (1154 GMT) with
the others following in quick succession.

"Incidents had taken place in the space of 10 minutes. It
appears to be pre-planned," Anil Sharma, chief security
commissioner of Western Railway, told CNN-IBN television


Singh immediately called the home (interior) minister and
top officials to an emergency meeting to discuss the violence.

"Security has been definitely put on high alert," Home
Secretary V.K.Duggal told reporters ahead of the meeting.

The Mumbai blasts came just hours after suspected Islamist
militants killed seven people, six of them tourists, in a
series of grenade attacks in Indian Kashmir's main city,
Srinagar, police said, the most concerted targeting of
civilians in months.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since
shortly after the two countries gained independence from
Britain in 1947, but both claim it in full.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that
President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
strongly condemned the "terrorist attack" in Mumbai.

Mumbai, a metropolis of about 17 million formerly known as
Bombay, has been hit by bomb blasts in the past decade.

More than 250 people died in a string of bomb explosions in
the city in 1993 for which authorities blamed the city's
underworld criminal gangs. Those attacks followed the
demolition of a mosque in the Hindu holy city of Ayodhya.