Three bomb blasts hit Mumbai, killing at least 21 people, in the biggest attack on India’s financial capital since a November 2008 terrorist rampage.
The explosions injured 141 people, the Home Ministry said in a statement. The bombings occurred around 7 p.m. yesterday in the Dadar, Zaveri Bazar and Opera House neighborhoods, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said at a briefing in New Delhi.
The attack was the latest in a series of blasts that have struck Mumbai and other Indian cities over the past decade, with some attributed to Pakistan-based groups and others to domestic operatives. With past incidents failing to stop India becoming the second-fastest growing major economy, investor reaction may be “moderate,” said Seth Freeman, chief executive officer at EM Capital Management LLC in San Francisco.
“Attacks of this magnitude do not deter foreign investors or have any lasting economic impact,” said Seema Desai, an analyst with the New York-based risk consultant Eurasia Group. “Most investors know that terror attacks can and do happen but these do not impact the functioning of the economy.”
India’s two largest stock exchanges, based in Mumbai, will open today as normal at 9:15 a.m., according to National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. spokeswoman Diyva Malik Lahiri and BSE Ltd. Deputy Chief Executive Office Ashishkumar Chauhan.
The city of more than 18 million people is also home to Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), which runs the world’s largest refinery complex, and Tata Sons Ltd., which controls the nation’s biggest business group by value.
Yesterday’s attack is the first in the city since Pakistani gunmen killed about 160 people in 2008.
The first and most powerful bomb exploded around 6:50 p.m., said Jayesh Labdhi, a resident in the Opera House area. The blast damaged cars and motorcycles parked along the street. The bomb that exploded in Dadar in central Mumbai was planted in a gray-colored Maruti Suzuki car, Times Now television said, citing eyewitnesses.
India’s home ministry confirmed that the blasts were terror attacks, according to U.K. Bansal, secretary for internal security. Officials didn’t say who might have carried them out and no one has yet claimed responsibility.
The low-intensity and remote-controlled nature of yesterday’s bombings pointed toward local militants such as the Indian Mujahedeen group, which claimed attacks in the cities of New Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad three years ago, the U.S. political risk assessment firm Stratfor said in an e-mailed statement. Still, “India tends to point the finger at Pakistan whenever attacks like this occur,” it said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts and asked the residents of Mumbai to stay calm and united. Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also issued a condemnation, in an e-mailed statement from the government.
The raid on Mumbai by terrorists of the Pakistani Lashkar- e-Taiba group in 2008 collapsed five years of peace talks between the arch rivals, who have fought three wars against each other since independence from Britain in 1947. Ties have since begun to recover, with the foreign ministers of the two agreeing last month to discuss ways to boost trade and travel across the border in divided Kashmir.
The injured from last evening’s attack were taken to King Edward Memorial Hospital, Saifee Hospital, Hinduja Hospital and J.J. Hospital. At least 21 people were bought to J.J., with two in critical condition, said S. Lahane, dean at the hospital.
“We have made arrangements with extra beds, medicines and blood bottles,” said Ajay Jagdale, the doctor in charge at King George Hospital. At least 37 people were bought to the hospital with critical injuries, he said.
Mumbai and major Indian cities including New Delhi, Hyderabad in the south and Ahmedabad in western Gujarat state have been hit by blasts over the past two decades.
Two bombs killed 52 people in the financial capital in 2003, an attack for which three people were eventually sentenced to death, including a married couple. Ten years earlier, serial bombings killed 257 people in the city.
In July 2006, explosions on commuter trains in the city killed 187 people and injured more than 800. In the November 2008 attack, 10 gunmen targeted luxury hotels including Taj Mahal Palace & Tower and Oberoi, a railway station and a Jewish center in a 60-hour raid.
India built more hubs for anti-terrorist commandos around the country in the aftermath of the 2008 disaster, and stepped up efforts to recruit more police. Still, local forces and intelligence agencies must be strengthened before terrorist attacks can be checked, said Ajai Sahni, executive director of New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management.
While India has blamed militant groups in Pakistan or home- grown Islamic outfits for most of the attacks, investigators have charged Hindu activists for their involvement in the 2007 bombing of a Pakistan-bound train service that killed 68 people, an attack earlier blamed on Muslim extremists.
Yesterday’s bombings come at a sensitive time in South Asia as the U.S. is trying to accelerate its withdrawal from Afghanistan and needs the cooperation of Pakistan to do so, Stratfor said in its report yesterday. “The last thing the United States needs is a crisis between India and Pakistan that could complicate that process.”
U.S. President Barack Obama offered “support to India’s efforts to bring the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice,” in a statement read by White House press secretary Jay Carney. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she will visit the Indian cities of New Delhi and Chennai next week as previously planned.
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