July 12, 2006

Mumbai bloodied by blasts but back at work

By Krittivas Mukherjee

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Millions of people packed trains and
buses to get to work in India's biggest city on Wednesday, as
the country's financial hub shook off seven bombs on its vital
commuter rail network that killed at least 183 people.

Investigators picked through mangled train compartments to
search for clues as to who was behind Tuesday's coordinated
bomb blasts in the city of 17 million, with suspicion falling
on Pakistan-based militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

Tuesday's attacks, on first-class compartments and railway
stations, seemed to have been aimed at the heart of India's
economic success story, but just hours later the city's
residents were back at work and the stock market was steady.

"It's a little scary but we have no option to go back to
work," said 24-year-old Amita Rane, a chartered accountant.

Nearly 700 people were wounded when seven bombs blew apart
railway carriages and stations packed with rush-hour commuters
in the space of just 11 minutes.

The death toll was the worst since a series of bombs killed
more than 250 people in Mumbai in 1993. The attacks were also
eerily reminiscent of serial bomb blasts on commuter rail
networks in Madrid and London in the past two years.

"My first thought is that this is copycat terrorism based
on the London and Madrid pattern," Peter Lehr at the Center for
the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at Britain's St.
Andrews University, told the Times of India.

Extra police were deployed at railway stations, parks,
markets and religious institutions across the country to
prevent further attacks and possible violence between Hindus
and Muslims. Checkpoints were also set up on key roads in major

The explosions happened hours after a series of grenade
attacks on tourists in Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir,
which killed eight people.

Police in Kashmir blamed the attacks there on the
Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, which authorities say is backed
by Pakistan and was also behind bomb blasts in crowded markets
in New Delhi last October that killed more than 60 people.

Newspapers quoted unnamed security sources as naming
Lashkar as the prime suspect for the Mumbai blasts.

Pakistan, which denies Indian charges of tacit support for
the militants, condemned what it called a "terrorist attack" in

Indian Junior Foreign Minister Anand Sharma said the blasts
were aimed at "wrecking" the peace process between the
nuclear-armed rivals but New Delhi remained committed to
improving ties with Islamabad.


Mumbai is a teeming metropolis of contrasts, with glitzy
high-rise office and apartment blocks standing side-by-side
with slums and pavement dwellers.

Home to Bollywood, the world's biggest movie industry, the
city is a lure to millions of rural poor.

But despite sometimes been known as hard-hearted, Mumbai
residents went out of their way to help fellow city dwellers,
offering rides in cars, providing water, and biscuits as well
as taking the dead and injured to hospitals.

"We're used to crises here," said Makaran Bhopatkar, a
35-year-old corporate trainer. "The city survives."

Muslims in areas near the blasts helped injured Hindus to
hospitals and gave cups of tea to family members.

Overnight, people crowded hospitals to identify family and
friends among the corpses, many badly mutilated and charred.

Authorities were running more buses on routes where train
services had yet to resume.

The benchmark Bombay stock exchange index was little
changed in morning trade on Wednesday but bond yields rose to
their highest since December 2001. The rupee slipped against
the dollar, but analysts did not expect a lasting impact.

"The bomb blasts do not alter our fundamental view of the
Indian economy," Rajeev Malik, analyst with J.P. Morgan, said.
India's economy grew at an average eight percent in past three

(Additional reporting by Sanjay Rajan, Rupam Jain,
Charlotte Cooper and Nitin Luthra)