|Originally Aired: July 11, 2006
Blasts on Indian Commuter Trains Kill More Than 140
|Eight bombs blasted commuter trains in India Tuesday, killing more than 140 people in a well-coordinated terrorist attack. A reporter provides an update.
MARGARET WARNER: It was the height of the bustling rush hour
financial center, Mumbai, when multiple bombs tore through the city's commuter
rail network. Stunned survivors and bystanders watched rescue workers
struggling in the pouring monsoon rain to reach the dead and wounded.
SHIVRAJ PATIL, Home Minister, India: They are in the process of
collecting the information about the passengers, and casualties, and all of
MARGARET WARNER: As workers cleared their way through debris,
the death toll mounted to well over 130 by midnight. Authorities said all the
bombs appear to have been planted in the first-class carriages of the trains.
Mumbai is not only a financial hub, but India's largest port city, a
metropolis of more than 16 million. The prime minister's spokesman denounced
the attacks as clear acts of terror.
SANJAYA BARU, Spokesman, Indian Prime Minister: We will work
to defeat the evil designs of terrorists and will not allow them to succeed. I
urge the people to remain calm, not to believe rumors, and carry on their
MARGARET WARNER: India's home minister, Shivraj
Patil, acknowledged the government had some intelligence an attack was coming,
but not specific enough to stop it.
As night fell, police carried out raids across India, and
other major cities were put on high alert.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The attacks
bore the hallmarks of radical Islamic groups and also of Pakistani-backed
Kashmiri separatists. But Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf quickly
condemned the attacks.
The Mumbai carnage followed a grenade attack earlier in the
day in Srinagar, the largest city in
Today's attacks were the deadliest in Mumbai since 1993, when
the city was known as Bombay.
A series of explosions killed more than 250 people that time; authorities
blamed those attacks on criminal gangs.
Sifting through the attack details
MARGARET WARNER: Late this afternoon, I spoke by phone with
Alex Perry, South Asia bureau chief for Time
magazine. He's in New Delhi.
And, Alex, thank you for joining us. It's after 2:00 a.m.
where you are right now. Is the rescue effort still under way or is it
complete? What can you tell us about the death toll and whether it's continuing
ALEX PERRY, South Asia Bureau Chief, Time Magazine: The
rescue effort is mostly completed by now, as there were -- the trains started
running again a couple of hours ago, though they paused overnight.
Most of the carnage has been shifted off the tracks and
bodies taken away. At the moment, we're looking at 147 dead and around about
People still expect that number to rise. Obviously, some of
the injured are very seriously injured.
The trains were -- this was rush hour, 6:00, 6:30. The
trains in Bombay at that time are incredibly packed, generally about three
times to what is meant to be their capacity, so every train will be carrying
about 4,000-4,500 people.
So I think we can expect the death toll to rise. But at the
moment, the trains look at though they're going to be running again in the
MARGARET WARNER: And is there any more detail on how these
attacks were carried out? How closely spaced were the blasts? What kind of
explosives were used?
ALEX PERRY: This is a precisely coordinated attack. There
were seven blasts within somewhere between 11 and 20 minutes of each other,
according to the different reports of when they came in.
But essentially almost going all at the same time, all on
the same railway line. The western railway is a main artery going through
Bombay. Something like 80 percent of India's commuters will take the railway to
get to work, and 6.5 million people will use that one line.
So the idea, essentially, was to cripple India's
financial capital, its transport network, and that's what happened. The railway
lines shut down. People had to turn to the roads, and the roads were
Speculation on those responsible
MARGARET WARNER: What are Indian authorities telling you now
about who they think was behind the attacks?
ALEX PERRY: Nobody's saying anything officially. India and Pakistan are having a peace process
at the moment, and nobody wants to ruffle feathers.
Unofficially, off the record, security sources of mine
(inaudible) are saying all fingers point to a loose alliance between a Pakistan
militant group called the Lashkar-e-Taiba that fights in Kashmir and also has
carried out bombing campaigns (inaudible) across the rest of India. And that
group, working in alliance with a radical Indian Muslim group called SIMI,
which was originally a student group.
That nexus is thought to be behind a series of blasts in India
over the last few years. Bombay
itself, actually, in 2003, there were nine explosions over a period of about
nine months in which a few people died.
And in the last 12 months, we've had bomb attacks in Delhi that killed 60, bomb attacks in the Hindi holy city
of Varanasi which killed around 20, and attacks
in Bangalore and Hyderabad, the two I.T. centers.
MARGARET WARNER: So you're saying one group is involved in
the Kashmir conflict but the other group is not? If not, what is their aim?
ALEX PERRY: Their aim is -- well, I mean, I have met one of
these guys shortly before there was a large blast in Bombay in 2003. I met a
senior leader in SIMI in Bombay.
He basically expressed rage. There was no point. There was
no manifesto. He didn't want a change in policy. He didn't want any -- he
didn't have any specific, say, a withdrawal from Kashmir. His whole point was
to kill Hindus.
He basically saw himself as alienated and all Muslims as
alienated in India by decades, if not centuries, of oppression and
discrimination. He said that Muslims were excluded from the Indian boom, that
therefore they always lived less healthy lives. They were ghettoized, and they
were frequent victims of violence, of communal violence from Hindus.
So for him the whole point of what he was doing was
(inaudible) it was an expression of rage. He wanted to kill.
MARGARET WARNER: And are either of these groups linked to
al-Qaida in any way?
ALEX PERRY: Yes, the LeT has proven links to al-Qaida. There's
been several senior members of al-Qaida arrested in Pakistan, who've been
arrested from LeT safe houses. LeT and al-Qaida have been known to share
training facilities, intelligence.
And they both have a connection through the Pakistani
security services, the ISI, which to many people believe operates, you know,
fairly independently of President Musharraf.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Alex Perry, Time magazine, thank
you so much.
ALEX PERRY: Sure.
Attack on India's financial hub
MARGARET WARNER: And since we talked to Alex Perry,
authorities revised their count of the number of explosions to eight.
Now, some perspective on why Mumbai was targeted and the
possible fallout from today's attacks. For that, we're joined by Anil
Padmanabhan, New York bureau chief for India
largest weekly news magazine.
Thank you so much for joining us.
Why do you think Mumbai, the city of Mumbai, would be a target for terrorists? What
American city would you compare it to?
ANIL PADMANABHAN, New York Bureau Chief, India Today: Typically, New York. It's India's commercial capital and also
the business capital. It's a port, so there's a tremendous amount of investment
in that city.
It's also the corporate headquarters for some of the biggest
companies from India,
Reliance and Tarders (ph), to mention two. It's the seat where Bollywood is located.
MARGARET WARNER: The film industry.
ANIL PADMANABHAN: In every which way of a commercial hub of
the country, and hence a primary target for anybody looking to cripple India
MARGARET WARNER: And when you mentioned Bollywood, you mean
the film industry, the Indian film industry?
ANIL PADMANABHAN: Correct.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, how essential is rail transport to
ANIL PADMANABHAN: Absolutely critical. It's like my
colleague from the Times said; it's an artery that runs north to south in
Mumbai. And it's critical to transporting people from across, right from the
southern tip of Bombay
right up to the northern suburbs. And it's like he mentioned, absolutely
critical on a daily, five-day work week in the city.
Shock to a peaceful nation
MARGARET WARNER: Now, what are you hearing from your sources
about who the likely perpetrators might be? Are they echoing what Alex Perry's
sources talked about, about the nexus between a Kashmir-related group and then
a kind of indigenous Muslim student-based group?
ANIL PADMANABHAN: Actually, like Alex said, they're very
cautious in naming anyone, as opposed to what they would do in the past. And
discussion is understandable from what the feedback and the kind of sequencing of
the two incidents.
I presume you're aware of the strikes in Kashmir
which were similar (inaudible) blasts. There is a strong reference being made
to these extremist Pakistan-occupied Kashmir-based groups, like the
Lashkar-e-Taiba, which have close links, established links with the al-Qaida. So
there is a clear pointer being made in that direction.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, are Indian authorities concerned that
al-Qaida is trying to or in the process of really establishing a beachhead in India?
ANIL PADMANABHAN: I'm not sure they'll be able to establish
a beachhead in India, but
they definitely have kind of beginning to ring India. Especially not much
attention has been dwelled on the fact that Bangladesh has been identified even
by the State Department as potential hub where al-Qaida has begun to operate
So, in a sense -- and already in Nepal you have a problem with the
communist extremist groups. So, in a sense, India is being ringed by various
extremist groups, including the al-Qaida.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Alex Perry also mentioned that other
group that was more indigenous, and that one leader he'd spoken to, the Muslim
leader, and about his rage. How intense has the communal tension been between
Muslims and Hindus in that part of India?
ANIL PADMANABHAN: In Maharashtra, actually, in this city, Bombay has probably got
the best record, in terms of communal amity in the country. It's only in '93
that the city saw its first backlash against Muslims.
But otherwise the city has been a kind of leader in people
living very comfortably with each other. So this city has not seen the tension,
but there are other parts in the state which have been flashpoints, but these
have been like far and few. They really haven't got the pattern and the
systemic nature that India
saw in the '80s.
MARGARET WARNER: India has certainly seen its share
of political violence over the decades. Is an attack like today's shocking, do
you think, to Indian society or political culture? Is it on a par with, I don't
know, 9/11 or in London
the subway bombings of last year?
ANIL PADMANABHAN: Definitely, it's a shock to the nation. India, as you
know, has been a pacifist nation. On its own accord, it has never attacked any
other country in the world.
And it also has a track record of non-violence, from the
father of the nation, which is Mahatma Gandhi. So it's a nation which has
generally existed peacefully with all its neighbors, in normal circumstances. And
to get such a tragedy afflicting them and to a city, particularly like Mumbai,
and also at a time when India
is on such economic ascendancy, it comes as a double shock to the country and
to the people at large.
MARGARET WARNER: Anil Padmanabhan, thank you, and our
ANIL PADMANABHAN: Thank you for having me.
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