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Bombay Security Hightened After Bus Bomb - 2003-07-29

Security has been stepped-up in India's financial capital Bombay, a day after a bomb explosion on a bus killed two people and injured more than 40 others. Authorities are blaming an Islamic militant group for the attack.

Police say they have boosted security at rail stations and airports in Bombay, where a bomb blew apart the rear of a crowded public bus in a suburban area Monday night. The blast also damaged nearby vehicles and shattered building windows.

The blast was the fifth to hit Bombay in the past eight months. Three of the attacks have targeted the city's public transport system, panicking residents. The most recent one in March killed 11 train passengers.

Bombay Police Chief R.S. Sharma says Islamic militants organized Monday's attack. Mr. Sharma said a local group with links to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba is to blame. Lashkar-e-Taiba is waging a separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir and has been blamed for the attack on India's parliament in December 2001, and for several deadly attacks in Kashmir.

The latest blast in Bombay has heightened security concerns elsewhere in the Indian state of Maharashtra, especially in the towns of Nashik and Trimbakeshwar, where an ancient, month-long Hindu festival starts Wednesday. Police are concerned that Islamic militants may attack the festival.

State authorities say hundreds police are being deployed in the twin temple towns, located about 300 kilometers north of Bombay. More than five million people are expected to attend the fair, which is one of Hinduism's holiest events held every three years.

Meanwhile, the right-wing Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata party have called for a one-day general strike on Wednesday in Bombay to demand better security in the city of 14 million people. Both are opposition parties in Maharashtra.