India in Fear of Further Attacks after Twin Bomb Blasts Kill 46

By Reeves, Phil | The Independent (London, England), August 26, 2003 | Go to article overview
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India in Fear of Further Attacks after Twin Bomb Blasts Kill 46


Reeves, Phil, The Independent (London, England)


THEY WERE still counting the dead early today after a car bomb exploded at Bombay's Gateway of India, among Asia's greatest landmarks and the signature of the country's commercial capital.

The attack - one of two large bombs in taxis to detonate in the city yesterday - was calculated to cause many casualties, chaos and international headlines by singling out a highly popular tourist spot.

It did just that.

By midnight, the number of deaths from both explosions was 46, with more than 150 injured. There were fears that the toll would rise, every new body increasing the communal tensions that plague this divided region. And there were fears of more attacks: hours after the blasts, nine detonators were found on a railway track leading from the city just before a trainload of pilgrims was to pass.

Pakistan moved swiftly to condemn the assaults, which came amid an uncertain thaw in the long-standing enmity between the two rival nuclear powers, as "acts of terrorism". Before, Indian leaders have linked Islamabad with terrorist attacks on its soil, including the deadly assault on its parliament in 2001, which caused both sides to mobilise their armies.

Lal Krishna Advani, the Indian Deputy Prime Minister, said similar attacks in Bombay had been launched by the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India with Lashkar e-Taiba, based in the Pakistan, which is among more than a dozen Islamic groups fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir. There have been eight bombings in as many months in Bombay, but yesterday's stood apart because of the number of victims and the symbolic force of striking a target at the heart of the national consciousness.

Built 80 years ago by British rulers after a visit by George V, the Gateway of India is to Bombay what Trafalgar Square is to London. The giant basalt triumphal arch was an assertion of colonial supremacy but has become the emblem of the nation's trendiest, most confident and most populous metropolis.

The place has always been a crowd-puller. Close by stands the five-star Taj Mahal hotel, with a reputation that extends from Bel Air to Sydney's millionaire row. Beyond stretch glorious views of Bombay harbour. Tourists gather in large numbers, and so do vendors, guides, grifters, snake charmers and beggars.

Such was the force of yesterday's Gateway blast that some people were blown off the parapets and into the sea. The two bombs, concealed in taxis, police said, went off within minutes of each other. It was mayhem. The city's phone systems jammed; its hospitals soon filled with shouting, frightened, bleeding people. Police flooded the streets, and security alerts were declared in India's areas of communal tension, including Gujarat, the north-west state that was the scene of last year's massacres, and Delhi, the capital.

The first bomb, just after 1pm, detonated in south Bombay's Zaveri Bazaar, close to a Hindu temple and within a popular market crammed with gold and jewellery stalls.

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India in Fear of Further Attacks after Twin Bomb Blasts Kill 46
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