In the first terrorist attack in many months, seven bombs went off within minutes of each other on Tuesday evening in the crowded lanes of one of India’s main tourist hub, the historic city of Jaipur, with reports of deaths ranging from 50 upwards, with roughly 150 injured, officials said.
The bombs went off within a radius of 50 feet, police said, and that bombs may have been planted in the wheels of bicycles, the mangled remains of which were found near many of the blast sites.
There were no claims of responsibility, which is typical of terror attacks in India, but the junior minister for home affairs, Sriprakash Jaiswal, immediately said “foreign terrorists” were suspected, using a phrase understood to refer to India’s neighbor and nuclear rival, Pakistan. Pakistan routinely deny Indian accusations that it is involved in any way in attacks on India.
One blast went off around 7:30 p.m. near a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Hanuman that is especially crowded on Tuesday evenings. Six more went off in quick succession in the warrens of shops and monuments nearby, including the popular 18th-century tourist site called Hawa Mahal, and the Johri Bazaar, lined with jewelers. Panic set in immediately, officials said.
The police sealed off the walled city, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm. Hospitals in Jaipur asked for blood donations.
Rohit Singh, the spokesman for Rajasthan state, of which Jaipur is the capital, estimated the death toll to be over 50 about three hours after the blasts. The Indian federal government dispatched explosives experts with the National Security Group, and put several major cities on alert, including the capital.
Although Jaipur, known as the pink city, is a popular tourist destination, in mid-May, the peak of the Indian summer, is not a busy season, and there were no reports that any foreigners had been killed..
The last major bombing in India came in August, when a pair of bombs went off in an outdoor auditorium and restaurant in the southern city of Hyderabad, killing more than 40. Two years ago, serial blasts along the commuter train line in Mumbai, the country’s commercial capital, killed nearly 200.
Mr. Singh, speaking by telephone from Jaipur, said it was too early to say who was responsible, but that the attack, on a summer’s evening when the walled city was thronged, appeared to be designed to ignite religious fury between Hindus and Muslims. Similar terror attacks targeting religious sites in recent years have not succeeded in setting off sectarian violence.
The Hindu holy city of Varanasi was struck by a pair of bombings in March 2006, killing 14, and a blast killed two worshippers in one of the holiest Muslim shrines in Ajmer, also in Rajasthan, last September.
“It is usually crowded in the evening, but on Tuesday evening it is more crowded,” Mr. Singh immediately after the blasts. “There is a lot of panic.” – nyt