Bombers Strike Bombay at Rush Hour

Commuters wait at the Churchgate railway station after train services were suspended following the bombings. Bombay's commuter rail carries about 6 million people a day.
Commuters wait at the Churchgate railway station after train services were suspended following the bombings. Bombay's commuter rail carries about 6 million people a day. (Press Trust Of India Via Associated Press)
By Muneeza Naqvi
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NEW DELHI, July 11 -- At least eight powerful bombs detonated in commuter trains and stations during the Tuesday evening rush hour in Bombay, India's commercial capital, killing at least 183 people and wounding more than 660. Authorities called the explosions a coordinated terrorist attack.

In monsoon rain, rescue workers helped dazed and bleeding survivors from rail cars that were mangled by the quick succession of blasts, television images showed. Train doors were blown off, and luggage and other debris littered the platforms.

There was no immediate assertion of responsibility for the attacks, which appeared to focus on first-class train cars. Authorities have blamed previous terrorist strikes in Bombay on indigenous Muslim groups motivated by sectarian hatred.

"This is a painful incident. I see this as a part of a larger conspiracy," Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra state, said on New Delhi Television channel. "The blasts occurred between 6 and 6:30 p.m. when the local trains are running at their busiest." Bombay, also called Mumbai, is the capital of Maharashtra.

The city's commuter rail system is one of the most heavily patronized in the world, carrying about 6 million people a day. The explosions, all along a single rail corridor in a western sector of the port city, caught passengers in very close quarters.

"It was a deafening sound, and before anybody could realize anything the roof of the train was ripped apart," Mukund Thakur, who was traveling to the northern suburb of Andheri, told the Reuters news agency. "People were thrown outside. I saw limbs strewn around me."

Santosh Patil, a railway laborer, said that "we collected scattered limbs with our own hands and put them in bundles and sent them to hospital," Reuters reported. Patil was interviewed carrying a body on a stretcher into a hospital.

The blasts came hours after a series of grenade attacks killed at least eight Indian tourists and injured more than 30 other people in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. Muslim insurgents have been fighting Indian authorities there, seeking union with Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country.

India's rail systems and airports were put on high alert after the explosions in Bombay. Phone lines to Bombay from New Delhi, the Indian capital, were jammed.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called an emergency meeting Tuesday with his national security advisers to discuss the attacks.

"The series of blasts in Mumbai and in Kashmir are a shocking and cowardly attempt to spread fear and terror among all citizens. I condemn these shameful acts, and I reiterate our commitment to fighting terror in all its forms," the prime minister said in a statement read by Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

Patil said that any possible links between the two attacks would be investigated.


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