Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Minorities in India Fear Reprisals For Terrorist Attack

FT.com / World - Minorities fear reprisals
By Jo Johnson and Khozem Merchant
Published: July 11 2006 21:37
 Within minutes, seven explosions on the railway that forms Mumbai's ( formerly known as Bombay)  spinal cord left at least 163 people dead and possibly more than 1,000 wounded in one of the worst terrorist attacks in India.

The first explosion took place at about 6.30pm, at the height of the rush hour, with a further six blasts ripping apart commuter trains over the next 20 minutes, sending shrapnel through carriages normally filled with 400-500 people each.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, which echoed the attacks in Madrid in 2004.

In a volatile sub-continent, in which attacks on one community seldom go unreciprocated, politicians urged people to remain calm. But some members of minority communities were last night anxious about reprisals.

For Elizabeth John, 37, a Pakistani living in New Delhi, it was a moment to be fearful. "I'm very sad and scared," she said.  "Lots of people know I'm living here as a Pakistani.  If they get angry they may attack me."

In Mumbai, amid torrential monsoon rains, thousands of commuters took to the streets of India's paralysed business capital, unable to make calls to jammed mobile telephone networks and overloaded land lines.

The explosives had been placed in railway coaches and on platforms on the western railway that snakes from south Mumbai to northern suburbs, the main commuter artery for millions of workers in the vibrant city.  Observers said the devastation would have been even worse had the explosives been planted in second-class carriages, which are densely packed, rather than in first-class coaches, usually reserved for women and less congested.

A number of smaller explosions in Srinigar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, earlier in the day had indicated an intensification of militant activity, but security forces have yet to announce links between the two sets of blasts.

As he did last October, when a wave of bombs devastated markets in New Delhi, killing 59 people, Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, said the attacks were the work of terrorists but he refused to speculate on the identity of the perpetrators.

A symbol of India's growing financial muscle, Mumbai has long been viewed as a tempting target for terrorist groups.

In 1993, 300 people were killed in 13 explosions that also destroyed the city's stock exchange.

In 2003 bombers moved effortlessly in the city's business quarter before watching their devices, planted in taxis, wreak havoc in two densely packed locations at lunchtime.  At least 50 people were killed on that occasion, as drivers, beggars and local tourists sat down to eat.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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