Investigation into Mumbai train bombings begins

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The toll in yesterday's serial bombings on Mumbai's commuter trains has risen to 200 killed, with 714 people injured, according to the official estimate released by the Police. 127 victims have been identified and a further 56 remain unidentified, the estimate said. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attacks. Indian authorities have said that the Kashmiri militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) may be involved. An LeT spokesman has denied any involvement.

The day after the blast, schools, colleges and offices functioned normally in Mumbai and the commuter train service targeted in the bombings was operational. Many commuters rode the trains to work, though their numbers were smaller than usual. The Bombay Stock Exchange, located in the city shrugged off the bombings, with the BSE SENSEX gaining 3 percent on opening, calming fears that economic confidence will be undermined by the blasts.

Investigation underway

The Maharashtra state government has announced a reward of Rs. 25,000,000 (about US $55,000) for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. A number of people, reported to be 350[1] have been detained for interrogation, but no arrests have been made. Police are working on preparing sketches of possible suspects, news reports say.

The Times of India newspaper reported that Indian intelligence officials believe that Lashkar-e-Toiba and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India were behind the blasts. The Home Ministry confirmed the involvement of Students Islamic Movement of India[2]. The Chief Secretary to the Maharashtra state government, D K Shankaran told Reuters news agency "So far it looks like there was a substantial involvement of Lashkar-e-Toiba with local support,"[3].

P.S. Pasricha, director-general of police in Maharashtra, speaking to reporters, said that while it was too early to say who is responsible for the attacks, the coordinated explosions were in the style of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which has been blamed for carrying out similar attacks before. Indian authorities have accused Kashmiri militant groups such as the Lashkar, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen of attacks on civilians before. The Mumbai underworld is another potential suspect - a series of bombings in Mumbai in 1993 which killed 250 people are believed to have been planned by a Mafia don Dawood Ibrahim. India alleges that Ibrahim lives in Pakistan and has long maintained that Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been trained and supported by Pakistan in the past.

Spokesmen for the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have denied any role in the attacks. The LeT spokesman said that LeT could "feel the pain of the victims" of the attacks as the people of Kashmir have been suffering "the same pain for the last 17 years at the hands of the Indian security forces", adding that an "independent investigation should be carried out... so that the people behind the attack can be exposed".

"Attacks on civilians are not part of our manifesto. We never carried out such attacks nor will allow anyone to do so," said Ehsan Elahi, spokesman for the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

International condemnation

The attacks have been condemned by a number of countries around the world. India's neighbours Pakistan, and Afghanistan; the UK, France, Italy and the EU; Spain, which witnessed a similar attack in 2004; South Africa, the United States, Australia and the UN Secretary General amongst others have spoken out against the attacks.

A statement released by Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attacks, saying "Terrorism is a bane of our times and it must be condemned, rejected and countered effectively and comprehensively."

India faults Pakistan Foreign Secretary statement

The Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, after condemning the attack, noted that not much progress has been made on Kashmir problem, he said, "incremental approach is good but now we must tackle real issues. And this is the best way of tackling extremism in South Asia".

India took exception to this remark. External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna described the statement as ‘appalling’, saying Mr Kasuri’s “remarks appear to suggest that Pakistan will cooperate with India against the scourge of cross-border terrorism and terrorist violence only if such so-called disputes are resolved,”.

He urged Pakistan to "dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism" on territory under its control and act in the spirit of the joint statement reached between the two countries on January 6, 2004.

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told a news channel on Wednesday that India may review some of the confidence building measures it is jointly developing with Pakistan, following the attacks. A meeting between Mr. Saran and his Pakistani counterpart, scheduled to take place on July 20-21, is also under question, with the External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna failing to make any announcement regarding the date.

Pakistan's foreign ministry rejected these accusations in a statement, saying Mr Kasuri's remarks had been misreported and denying he had drawn a link between the bombings and the Kashmir dispute. and said that Pakistan was "in the forefront of international efforts to fight [the] menace" of terrorism.

Prime Minister addresses nation

In an address to the nation, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his condolences to the victims of the attacks and to their families, saying that India stands by the people of Mumbai and Srinagar (where 8 people were killed in a grenade attack yesterday) "in this hour of grief". "My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones", he said.

He acknowledged the "courage and humanism" shown in the response to the attacks and the efforts of the emergency and service personnel and the public in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Saying that Mumbai is the symbol of a united, inclusive India, he said that India will "continue to walk tall, and with confidence despite the attack".

The Union Home minister Shivraj Patil, the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav visited Matunga Road railway station late yesterday. Mr Patil appealed for unity and restraint in responding to the attack. Mr Yadav has announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5,00,000 (US $11,000) to the families of the dead and promised jobs in the railways for the families who have lost earning members in the bombings.

Opposition BJP calls for tougher anti-terrorism measures

The Leader of the Opposition L K Advani and President of the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party Rajnath Singh, who visited the blast sites and the met with the injured, called the bombings "an attack on India".

A resolution adopted by the BJP office-bearers criticised the central UPA government, charging that it was sending "consistent signals that the initiative against terrorism can be traded for votes". However, Mr. Advani said that "it was not the time for criticising the government". He said that the blasts showed up the need for a stringent anti-terrorism law and that the authorities must not give an impression that they are willing to compromise national security.

In 2004, The UPA government had repealed such a law, the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act enacted by the previous BJP-led government.