Mumbai train blasts 'kill 135'
The Guardian

At least 135 people were killed today after seven explosions tore through packed commuter trains in Mumbai, India's financial centre, police say. The blasts - suspected to be caused by bombs - ripped through passenger compartments in choreographed terrorist attacks on several different trains at separate sites.

The attacks, in the city centre and suburbs, came during the evening rush hour causing devastation and chaos on one of the world's busiest railway lines.

Witnesses described seeing body parts strewn about the blast sites. The number of injured was estimated at more than 250 people

The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, called an emergency cabinet meeting and blamed "terrorists" for the attacks. Police and the local state chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, said "bombs" had caused the explosions.

VK Duggal, the Indian home minister, told Indian television that authorities had "some" information an attack was coming on the rail network - one of the world's busiest - but did not know the time or place.

Reuters said a police official in the city's central control room, who had been contacted by telephone, had said "there are 104 people dead". The city's police chief, AN Roy, said at least 135 people were dead, the Associated Press reported.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but the blasts came in quick succession - a common tactic employed by Kashmiri militants that have repeatedly targeted India's cities. The blasts came just hours after suspected Islamist militants killed seven people, six of them tourists, in a series of grenade attacks in Indian Kashmir's main city, Srinagar, police said, the most concerted targeting of civilians in months.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said he "strongly condemned" the attacks and "expressed condolences over the loss of innocent lives".

The first blast was in a first-class compartment of a local train near station in the north-western Khar suburb at 6.24pm local time (1356 BST), the Times of India website reported. Within the next 11 minutes, there were six further blasts on trains and on platforms at stations, including the Matunga station in the city's centre, and at Mahim and Santa Cruz.

At least 15 people died in the blast at Matunga, one television station reported.

Local television footage showed some survivors sprawled on railways tracks at one of the blast sites. The force of the blasts ripped doors and windows off carriages, and luggage and debris were strewn about.

One piece of footage showed dazed survivors with wounds from injuries to heads, legs and hands at one railway station with little sign of any emergency medical aid. In other footage, survivors were shown being carried through stations.

"The blasts happened when the trains were most crowded," said DK Shankaran, chief secretary of the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital.

"We have rescued at least 30 people in Mahim and about 40 to 50 in Matunga," A Jhandwal, Mumbai's fire services chief told Reuters.

"We have doused the flames at all the blast sites and now we are taking the injured to hospitals," he added.

Pranay Prabhakar, a spokesman for the Western Railway, said all trains had been suspended and he appealed to the public to stay away from the city's train stations.

Mumbai's roads became jammed in the wake of the blasts as workers tried to find alternative ways home. Some workers, fearful of further attacks and the chaos on the roads, wrote on blogs that they were staying in their offices while keeping track of news bulletins.

"It is a sad day ... security has been definitely put on high alert," said VK Duggal, the home minister, speaking to reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting.

There were reports of police carrying out raids across the city following the blasts. Police in the Indian capital New Delhi said they were on the lookout for more violence. "We have mobilised our entire forces who are conducting checks in all areas such as buses, bus stops, train stations and religious institutions," Anil Shukla, deputy commissioner of police for South Delhi, told Reuters.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since shortly after the two countries gained independence from Britain in 1947, but both claim it in full.

Mumbai, a metropolis of about 17 million, has been hit by a series of bomb blasts in the past decade. More than 250 people died in a string of bomb explosions in Mumbai in 1993, which were blamed on the city's underworld criminal gangs.