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Mumbai blasts: Police follow leads

Mumbai blasts: Police follow leads

Maharashtra DGP P S Pasricha said officials had known for ‘some months’ that the city was a target.

Mumbai: Police investigating the highly coordinated bombings on Mumbai's rail network that killed 183 people say the attacks bear the hallmarks of a Kashmiri militant group.

As commuters in Mumbai boarded trains on Wednesday, the day after the blasts shut down the local rail network, Maharashtra DGP P S Pasricha said officials had known for ‘some months’ that the city was a target.

Pasricha also revised earlier death toll figures, saying 183 people were killed in the seven explosions, which took place in an 11-minute period during Tuesday's evening rush-hour, and 714 injured.

"We had an idea since some months that Mumbai was a target," he told reporters. "Since it is the financial capital, there are many vulnerable areas in the city. Targets are well known."

US officials said suspicion fell on two Islamic terrorist groups whose focus has been on the disputed territory of Kashmir - Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Both groups had been implicated in the past in attacks that involved coordinated bombings during peak times in India, the officials said.

Asked whether LeT, which in a statement earlier on Wednesday denied any role in the bombings, was involved, Pasricha said, "It is difficult to say definitely as this stage, but LeT can be involved going by the style of attack."

Early on Wednesday, hundreds of people at a station 440 kilometers from Mumbai waited for trains to start running after the Western Railway system was suspended on Tuesday.

Two rail lines were restored by dawn, and a third was expected to reopen in the morning, reporters quoted officials as saying.

Trains are considered the lifelines of teeming Mumbai, and 4.5 million people use them every day.

The Red Cross says bodies are still being found and hospitals in the West Indian seaport are scrambling to care for survivors.

Heavy monsoon rains hampered rescue efforts, but bystanders wrapped people in blankets and helped transport the injured to hospitals.

Copycat crimes?

Analysts have compared the attack with the mass transit bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London last year, saying they all involved multiple blasts and were well coordinated.

It may be no coincidence the attacks struck just ahead of the Group of Eight summit of world leaders that begins Saturday in St. Petersburg, Russia, said Sajjan Gohel, director of international security for the Asia-Pacific Foundation.

Last year's July 7 terror bombings in London that killed 52 people came as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was hosting the G8 summit in Scotland.

"This time again, they're (terrorists) trying to show that they are live, active. They want attention, they want the focus," Gohel said. "It was a coordinated, multiple, simultaneous mass casualty atrocity. This is the hallmark of a powerful transnational group."

Dana Dillon, a senior policy analyst in the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, said if Indians believed a Pakistani militant group was behind the bombings, it could disrupt more than two years of talks between the countries.

"If this terrorist attack messes that up, it could be catastrophic to the region," Dillon said.

first published:July 12, 2006, 15:47 IST