Three bomb blasts in the Indian city of Mumbai have killed at least 17 people and and injured 131.
No organisation has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts, which Indian authorities said were caused by explosives planted on motorcycles and a scooter.
Reuters reported that suspicion was falling on the Indian Mujahideen (IM), “an underground terrorist group sworn to avenge the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in the neighbouring state of Gujarat.”
“The choice of neighbourhoods in south and central Mumbai suggested that, as in the past, the attempt was to terrorise the city’s businessmen, particularly from among its Gujarati community,” Reuters reported.
The first explosion occurred in rush hour at 6:54pm in the Zaveri bazaar, a well-known jewelry market. The second took place at 6:55pm at the Opera House, while the third bomb exploded at 7:05pm in the neighbourhood of Dadar.
The attack is the fourth major terrorist incident in India’s financial capital since 2003. The last attack, in November 2008, saw gunmen from Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) rampage through the city for three days.
The LeT was also blamed for an attack in July 2006, with 180 people killed when seven explosions destroyed trains on the city’s commuter network.
Reuters reported than plans to set up 5000 surveillance cameras across the city had been gathering dust despite vast sums of money poured into counterterrorism efforts.
“We see a lack of political will to take this [protecting the city against terror attacks] on on an emergency basis,” CNN-IBN reported.
“Mumbai is a soft target, it will always remain a soft target. The only way to combat this is through good intelligence, and that’s not there.”
India and Maldives counter-terrorism cooperation
Indian interest in the Maldives is partly prompted by counter-terrorism concerns. The Indian Ocean is, President Mohamed Nasheed said in October 2010, “India’s soft-underbelly.”
“Security issues in the Indian Ocean have lately become more and more serious. We see the Mumbai attack also as an Indian ocean issue,” Nasheed said at the time.
Indian newspaper The Economic Times noted that the Maldives landed on the Indian intelligence radar after Sultan Park bomber Moosa Inas was reported to have been linked to the LeT and had travelled to Kerala before the bombings, a popular recruiting ground for the group.
Indian news portal Rediff.com has previously quoted Indian intelligence bureau sources as saying that the LeT “has nearly 1,000 operatives active in the Maldives”, and that there was no way the group’s operations “can be curbed unless there is very good intelligence sharing with the Maldives.”
The intelligence sources claimed that in the last three months “there has been an increase in LeT activites in the Maldives, and several persons from [the LeT’s] Kerala group have slipped into the country and are busy setting up operations there.”
President Mohamed Nasheed has dismissed the notion that the LeT had presence in the Maldives or was looking to establish a base – rumours that sporadically appear in the Indian media – but has acknowledged “serious” issues concerning the emergence of radical groups with some members trained in Pakistan.