14
Jul

Bombs in Mumbai: Terror Again

Written on July 14, 2011 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Asia

On a sodden evening in Dadar, a middle-class neighbourhood in central Mumbai, one end of a bus stop still displays an ad for pro-biotic yoghurt. The other end is blown to bits. A tarpaulin, gathering water, has been hastily laid to cover the pavement next to it and a crowd is gathered nearby, including a man offering to trade gruesome photos taken on his phone. A local man says he heard the explosion and came out to see bodies being dragged away.

The bomb, like blasts in two other neighbourhoods in the south of the city, went off at about 7pm, during rush hour. Across Mumbai on July 13th bombs killed 18 people and injured 113, according to the chief minister of Maharashtra state.

The attacks were of middling complexity. The three near-simultaneous explosions in separate parts of the city would have taken some planning. And the crude devices inflicted a serious toll. But at least the most intense terror was fleeting.

By grim contrast, three years ago, a sophisticated and suicidal assault by ten well-trained gunmen on various sites, including a hotel, train station, Jewish centre and restaurant in Mumbai, was prolonged and intensely distressing. Some 170 people died over four days as hostages were shot and the Taj Mahal hotel burned, while officials flapped in response.

This time the authorities appeared much better organised, despite crowds and monsoon rain. Commandos, bomb experts, forensic and terrorist units were deployed promptly, some from Delhi. Politicians spoke to the public immediately and the home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, rushed to the scene. Public figures lined up to call for calm—in effect warning angry Hindus from rampaging against Muslims.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Fingers could be pointed at jihadis based over the border, notably Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), who were behind previous (and more audacious) strikes. Pakistani militants had earlier vowed revenge on America and its allies for the killing of Osama bin Laden. The attacks also come amid cautious but steady efforts by India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to restart peace talks with Pakistan, which collapsed following the 2008 assault. The countries’ foreign ministers are to meet in Delhi this month. That should yet happen, especially since Pakistan’s civilian leaders promptly condemned the latest attacks. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on July 13, 2011.

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