July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Three bombs in crowded neighborhoods of Mumbai, India’s financial capital, killed 21 people in the country’s deadliest terrorist strike since 2008, when a siege by 10 gunmen derailed peace talks with Pakistan.
The blasts in a 20-minute period during the city’s evening rush hour yesterday also injured 141 people, the home ministry said in a statement. Mumbai, home to India’s biggest companies, stock and currency markets and the scene of bombings in 2003 and 2006, remains a “prime target,” Prithviraj Chavan, chief minister of Maharashtra state, of which the city is the capital, said in televised comments.
“Terrorists will obviously attack where it hurts most,” he said.
Indian officials did not say who may have carried out the bombings, and there was no claim of responsibility.
The government in New Delhi blamed the three-day rampage in Mumbai in 2008 on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group that has fought Indian forces in disputed Kashmir. That attack, which targeted international business travelers at luxury hotels as well as local commuters at the biggest railway station, killed 166 people and led to the snapping of a five-year peace effort between India and Pakistan that is only now being rebuilt.
The low-intensity and remote-controlled nature of yesterday’s bombings pointed toward local militants such as the Indian Mujahedeen group, which claimed attacks in the cities of New Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad three years ago, the U.S. political risk assessment firm Stratfor said in an e-mailed statement. Still, “India tends to point the finger at Pakistan whenever attacks like this occur,” it said.
U.S., Pakistan Condemn Attack
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned yesterday’s blasts, according to an e-mailed statement from the government. U.S. President Barack Obama offered “support to India’s efforts to bring the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice,” in a statement read by White House press secretary Jay Carney.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she will visit the Indian cities of New Delhi and Chennai next week as previously planned.
“It is more important than ever that we stand with India,” she said in a statement.
The blasts ripped through the Dadar, Zaveri Bazar and Opera House areas of the port city of 18 million people, said Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, who took charge of internal security in the aftermath of the 2008 raid. He met with key security officials in New Delhi and will fly to Mumbai, the NDTV channel reported.
The first and most powerful bomb exploded around 6:50 p.m., Jayesh Labdhi, a resident in the Opera House area, said. The blast damaged cars and motorcycles parked along the street. The bomb that detonated in Dadar in central Mumbai was planted in a gray Maruti Suzuki car, Times Now television said, citing witnesses.
The wounded were taken to city hospitals. “We have made arrangements with extra beds, medicines and blood bottles,” said Ajay Jagdale, the doctor in charge at King George Hospital, which was treating at least 37 people with critical injuries.
India’s two largest stock exchanges that are based in Mumbai will function as normal today. Reliance Industries Ltd., which runs the world’s largest refinery complex, and Tata Sons Ltd. which controls the nation’s biggest business group by value, are both based in the city.
“Attacks of this magnitude do not deter foreign investors or have any lasting economic impact,” said Seema Desai, an analyst with the New York-based risk consultant Eurasia Group. “Most investors know that terror attacks can and do happen but these do not impact the functioning of the economy.”
Indian Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for bombings in major Indian cities in 2008 that killed hundreds of people, following which security officials said they arrested several of its leading members. Christine Fair, a strategic affairs analyst at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., has written that the group may have links with Lashkar.
The bombings come at a sensitive time in South Asia as the U.S. is trying to accelerate its withdrawal from Afghanistan and needs the cooperation of Pakistan to do so, Stratfor said in its statement. “The last thing the United States needs is a crisis between India and Pakistan that could complicate that process,” it said.
In earlier attacks in Mumbai, two bombs killed 52 people in 2003, an attack for which three people were eventually sentenced to death, including a married couple. That attack came 10 years after 1993 serial blasts that killed 257 people in the city.
Three years later, in July 2006, bombings on commuter trains in the city killed 187 people and injured more than 800. In the November 2008 attack, 10 gunmen targeted luxury hotels including the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower and the Oberoi, a railway station and a Jewish center in a 60-hour raid.
In its wake, India built more hubs for anti-terrorist commandos around the country and stepped up efforts to recruit more police. Still, local forces and intelligence agencies must be strengthened before terrorist attacks can be checked, Ajai Sahni, executive director of New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management, said in a phone interview.
While India has blamed Islamic militant groups -- either home-grown or based in Pakistan -- for most of the attacks, investigators this year charged Hindu activists for their involvement in the 2007 bombing of a Pakistan-bound train service that killed 68 people, an attack earlier blamed on Muslim extremists.
--With assistance from Natalie Obiko Pearson and Pooja Thakur in Mumbai, Unni Krishnan, Abhay Singh and Karthikeyan Sundaram in New Delhi and Sandeep Kumar in New York. Editors: Terry Atlas, Steven Komarow
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