Blasts Rock India's Capital, At Least 20 Killed



Police in India's capital say five bombs exploded and four more were discovered and defused Saturday evening. At least 20 people are dead from the serial blasts and up to 100 people injured. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited the site where two blasts occurred in New Delhi and files this report.

Major upscale shopping markets in New Delhi were the targets of synchronized bombings at the busiest hour of the week. Authorities say in addition to the blasts within a 45-minute period at four markets, more bombs were discovered and defused at other locations in the capital.

At the site where two bombs detonated, the Greater Kailash-One M-block market, Delhi Mayor Aarti Mehra told VOA News the explosives were certainly placed by terrorists.

"The way these terrorists operate it's very shameful. In a cycle they put a bomb or in the dustbin. It's very, very shameful and cowardly," said Mehra.

U.S. Ambassador David Mulford issued a statement saying there is no justification for the "vicious murder of innocent people." He adds the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of India in the fight against terror.

Nishi Kant Sharma operates a small grocery store in the same market. He says the second blast there came seven minutes after the initial explosion.

The shopkeeper says the bomb detonated on the rear of a bicycle parked in the middle of the market. A rear wheel flew off the bicycle and hit a restaurant window. Many showroom windows came crashing down from the blast and light bulbs shattered inside the shops.

The South Delhi District Commissioner of Police, H.G.S. Dhaliwal, standing at the site of the second explosion, told reporters quick action to clear the market after the initial blast saved lives.

"It was a commendable job performed by the local officers of this market. Of course, they got a lot of support from the market residents also. There were a lot of people moving in this area, so an immediate announcement was made on the p.a. (public address) system. As a result there has been not a single injury in the second explosion though it was quite a high intensity," said Dhaliwal.

Others blasts took place at Connaught Place, the capital's financial and commercial hub, about one kilometer from the Parliament and at the crowded Ghaffar market known for its imported goods, in central Delhi.

Private television channels say they received an e-mail, titled "Messaage (sic) of Death. In the name of Allah" minutes before the first blast. The message stated that "Indian Mujahideen have come back to strike once more" and that nine bombs had been planted.

Indian media reports say the e-mail has been traced to an eastern suburb of Mumbai. Television networks also report police detained several suspects in New Delhi several hours after the blasts. 

Authorities say Indian Mujahedeen, which has sent similar electronic messages just prior to explosions in other Indian cities, is likely a cover name for one or more known terrorist organizations.

Saturday's bombings are the worst such attacks in India's capital since October 2005. Those blasts left more than 60 people dead, including several foreigners. 

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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