The two bombs were hidden in the trunks of taxis and exploded within five minutes of each other, police told local media, as reported by news agencies. There were no initial claims of responsibility for the blasts.
The first bombing occurred at the Zaveri Bazaar, a crowded jewelry market near one the main Hindu temples in the city of Mumbai, formerly and commonly known as Bombay.
The second bomb exploded near a colonial-era historic monument popular with tourists, known as the Gateway of India. The site commemorates the first visit to India by a British king and queen, namely King George V and Queen Mary, in 1911.
Most of the deaths reportedly occurred at the market, which was crowded with people during the lunchtime hour. Mangled cars and pools of broken glass were left in the wake of the blast, according to reports from the scene.
“There were hands and legs flying in the air, blood everywhere,” Anil Punjabi, whose jewelry shop was next to the market, told Reuters. “I saw some bodies were thrown 10 to 15 feet away from the blast site.”
The Gateway of India bombing apparently occurred near the well-known Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the city’s oldest luxury hotels. Windows were shattered in the hotel and cars were damaged from the blast, according to media reports.
“The building we were in shook and we heard a loud noise,” Ingrid Alva, a public relations consultant who works near the gateway, told the Associated Press. “I rushed out and saw the crowds at the Gateway of India. … We saw some body parts lying around before we were told to move away by the police.”
Police issued security alerts for Bombay and the nation’s capital city of New Dehli and recalled police officers on leave in case of further violence.
“The explosions were aimed at targeting the economic activity of the city, as well as Bombay as a tourist destination,” said Sushil Kumar Shinde, chief minister of the Maharashtra state government, at a press conference, according to the AP.
Shinde also said a taxi driver was being questioned as to whether the bomb responsible for the Gateway of India blast was planted in his car.
The bombings coincided with the release of a long-anticipated archeological report on a disputed religious site at Ayodhya in northern India that is claimed by both Hindus and Muslims. The report found evidence of an ancient structure with some traits similar to those of a Hindu temple. The dispute over the site has been linked to previous bombings.
Monday’s blasts were some of the most deadly in the city since 1993 when a series of bombings killed 260 people. Police say those attacks were in response to the 1992 destruction of a 16th century mosque in Ayodhya by Hindu mobs, and to avenge Muslim deaths in riots that followed.
“Bombay has not been safe since the 1993 blasts. It is getting worse. No public place is safe now. Anything can happen at any time,” Raju Jain, a local jeweler whose shop was damaged in the blast, told Reuters.
The city has been the scene of smaller attacks in recent months, including a bombing in late July on a crowded passenger bus.
In the past, police and government officials have blamed similar attacks on Islamic militants with ties to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, one of several Pakistan-based groups involved in a separatist campaign over the disputed region of Kashmir, as well as the Students Islamic Movement of India, a militant student group outlawed in September 2001.
Pakistani officials quickly denounced Monday’s attacks and condemned the “wanton targeting of civilians.”