Toll in India rises to 52; official blames Pakistan

THE BALTIMORE SUN

BOMBAY, India - The death toll here from two powerful bombs that exploded Monday in taxis rose to 52 yesterday, as the blasts threatened to derail a fragile reconciliation between India and Pakistan.

On a visit to the blast sites and a hospital where dozens of victims were recovering, the deputy prime minister, Lal Krishna Advani, launched a blistering attack on India's neighbor and nuclear rival, saying that terrorism in India is an outgrowth of Pakistan's frustration at its own lack of progress.

He blamed the bombs on Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a group based in Pakistan that is seeking to liberate the part of Kashmir governed by India, and on a banned Indian group, the Students Islamic Movement of India.

"This itself tells about the involvement of Pakistan in terrorist activities carried out throughout the country," he said. "The neighbor's target is not merely destabilizing Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Delhi, but to destabilize the entire country."

He said Pakistan's refusal to hand over 20 criminals wanted by India in connection with bomb blasts that killed more than 260 people in Bombay a decade ago, among other crimes, undermined its condemnation of Monday's attacks.

It was not clear how Advani's accusation - which was met with a prompt denial by Pakistan - would affect relations between the two countries.

Bombay's police commissioner, R.S. Sharma, said Lashkar-e-Tayabba and what he called "ex-members" of the Islamic group were responsible, but declined to offer any evidence to support his assertions.

He said police were questioning the driver of one taxi who had provided a description of the riders believed to have placed the bomb in the trunk of the taxi parked near the historic Gateway of India. The driver of the other taxi, which was parked in the Mumba Devi neighborhood, was killed.

In many ways Bombay, India's commercial capital, was back to normal. The Sensex stock index, which had dropped 120 points on Monday, when the Gateway of India blast shook the nearby Bombay Stock Exchange, surged up 147 points.

Streets were full, including the one in the Mumba Devi shopping district where the other blast left at least 36 people dead. Crowds gathered around the site, where pieces were still falling off a building that had partly crumbled from the blast.

Bombay residents described a new sense of insecurity and greater skepticism about the effectiveness of the city's law enforcement and intelligence, but also exhibited the resilience of a city accustomed to violence.

Damoda Nayak said he planned to reopen his restaurant today, across the street from where the blast took place. He said the heavy presence of Hindus from Gujarat in the neighborhood made him think the blasts were revenge killings for anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state last year, but said he did not expect retaliatory riots.

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