A bus after a bomb blast in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. Reuters
AHMEDABAD, India // Indian leaders appealed for calm today after a wave of bombings killed 38 people and left 100 injured in the religiously-tense western city of Ahmedabad. The string of 16 bombings ripped through crowded places in the tinderbox city, which was the scene of deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002, with targets including markets, buses and hospitals struggling to treat the victims.Indian television channels said a little-known group calling itself the “Indian Mujahedeen” had claimed responsibility for the attacks, which came a day after a similar wave of bombings in the southern city of Bangalore.
"In the name of Allah the Indian Mujahedeen strike again! Do whatever you can, within 5 minutes from now, feel the terror of death!" said an e-mail from the group sent to several Indian television stations minutes before the blasts began.
Click here to see photos. The e-mail's subject line said "Await 5 minutes for the revenge of Gujarat," an apparent reference to 2002 riots in the western state which left 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead. The historic city of Ahmadabad is the capital of Gujarat and was the scene of much of the 2002 violence.The e-mail was sent by a group calling itself Indian Mujahedeen which was unknown before May, when it said it was behind a series of bombings in Jaipur, also in western India, that killed 61 people. Saturday's e-mail, sent from a Yahoo account and written in English, was made available to AP by CNN-IBN, one of the TV stations that received the warning.
The Indian president Pratibha Patil expressed her “grief and sorrow” and also “appealed to the people of Ahmedabad to maintain peace and harmony,” her office said in a statement. Many of the victims had been peppered with red-hot nuts, bolts and ball bearings packed into bombs that were clearly designed to cause maximum casualties, doctors said. All the bombs were detonated with timer devices and all went off in the space of 36 minutes, officials said.
“We should not allow anybody to make use of this blast to create more terror and to create more difficulties for the people,” said the home minister Shivraj Patil, also urging calm in the communally-tense state.Narendra Modi, the right-wing Hindu leader in Gujarat, however, warned he “shall not spare” the culprits.“The land of Mahatma Gandhi has been bloodied by terrorists whom we shall not spare,” said Mr Modi, the firebrand chief minister of Gujarat state - the birthplace of India’s independence hero. “Terrorists are waging a war against India. We should be prepared for a long battle against terrorism.”
Mr Modi is a highly controversial figure in India - and is still accused of turning a blind eye to the 2002 riots which left 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead. Ahmedabad, however, was largely calm this morning, with large numbers of police and paramilitaries mobilised.Major Indian cities have been hit by a string of apparently well-planned bomb attacks in recent years, with officials in the capital regularly pointing the finger at arch-rival Pakistan or militants backed by Islamabad.
Pakistan denies backing militants, including those operating in the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir.But earlier in the week India said the two countries’ peace process was “under stress”, repeating allegations that “elements” in Islamabad were behind an upsurge in militant activities including this month’s suicide attack against its Kabul embassy.