Friday 20 October 2017

Triple bomb blast kills 21 as terrorists target Mumbai

Rob Crilly in Islamabad

Terrorism returned to the streets of Mumbai yesterday as three co-ordinated bomb blasts, at the height of the evening rush hour, killed at least 21 people and injured more than 80.

The near-simultaneous explosions, targeted at districts filled with thousands of shoppers and commuters, threw the city into chaos, as people feared a repeat of the terrorist attacks of 2008 in which 166 died.

One explosion was reported in the Zaveri Bazaar, a renowned jewellery market in the south of Mumbai, another in the Opera House business district and a third in Dadar district in the city centre.

Officials quickly confirmed the bombings as the work of terrorists, with immediate suspicion focused on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani group that had attacked India in the past, as well as the Indian Mujahideen, a home-grown extremist organisation.

Anti-terrorist commandos and national investigation agency officials flew into Mumbai, while cities across India, including Delhi, the capital, and Calcutta, were put on high alert as security forces prepared to deal with the possibility of further attacks. US President Barack Obama condemned the "outrageous" attacks and William Hague, the British foreign secretary, described them as "deplorable acts of terrorism".

Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister appealed for the people of Mumbai to "remain calm and show a united face".

The bombings once again left the people of Mumbai, India's financial capital, having to cope with the horrific aftermath of a major terrorist attack less than three years after 10 militants laid siege to the city for 60 hours in November 2008.

That attack, which targeted two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre and a busy train station, killed 166 people and escalated tensions between India and Pakistan. Peace talks were suspended and resumed only recently.

Witnesses to the bombings, which happened at just before 7pm, described chaotic scenes as the explosions sent people scurrying for cover.

Monsoon

The first blast hit Zaveri Bazaar at 6.54pm. Police said a bomb, hidden in an umbrella, tore through its jewellery shops and street stalls.

"There was a lot of blood and I saw at least three people dead," said a gold dealer, adding that the death toll could have been worse if monsoon rains had not kept some people off the streets.

A minute later, a car bomb exploded in the Opera House business district. The third bomb in 11 minutes of mayhem detonated in a taxi in Dadar, a central area where shattered glass littered the pavement as commuters hurried to the nearby railway station.

"We heard a big blast. The building shook, the windows shattered," said Aagam Doshi, a diamond merchant who saw the Opera House explosion.

"We came outside, and the area was filled with black smoke." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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