Two explosions rip India high-tech city

The Baltimore Sun

NEW DELHI -- At least two powerful explosions ripped through the Southern India high-tech city of Hyderabad yesterday evening, killing more than 30 people and injuring dozens more.

The blasts struck an outdoor laser show and a popular restaurant around 7:30 p.m., leaving bodies and pools of blood amid smoking rubble and shattered glass. Some 50 people were injured.

"This is a terrorist act," said Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state, to reporters.

While Indian officials often blame Muslim militants for bomb attacks, there were no immediate accusations against Islamic groups in the blasts. The two spots are popular with both Hindus and Muslims.

It was the second time in fewer than four months that the bustling city, the state capital which has become known internationally for its computer software industry, has been hit by a deadly bombing.

In May, about a dozen people were killed in an attack on a crowded mosque where thousands of worshipers had gathered for Friday prayers. Several more residents died in subsequent clashes between police and protesters.

Authorities did not immediately name a suspect in yesterday's bombings, and there was no public claim of responsibility. In such attacks in the past, suspicion has fallen on Hindu extremists and Islamic groups linked to Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Hyderabad is home to 4 million people, with Muslims making up about 40 percent of the population, a much higher proportion than their share of India's population as a whole. The city has a history of religious violence.

Yesterday's explosions went off minutes apart. Television footage showed seats blown to pieces and victims lying amid the debris at the open-air laser show in Lumbini Park, a popular leisure spot. The show, a relatively new attraction in Hyderabad, narrates the city's history.

"We heard the blast and people started running out past us. Many of them had blood streaming off them," said P.K. Verghese, the security manager at the laser show. "It was complete chaos. We had to remove the security barriers so people could get out."

According to Reuters news agency, three other explosive devices were found across the city, two of them in cinemas, but all were defused.

Cities were put on heightened alert across India, which has seen 300 people killed in major bombings within the past 13 months.

In July 2006, a series of coordinated blasts along the commuter rail network in Mumbai, formerly Bombay, killed about 200 people, an attack blamed on Kashmiri separatists with suspected links to Pakistan.

Two months later, at least 30 people died in a bombing near a mosque in the city of Malegaon, in Central India.

And in February, more than 60 passengers were killed in the firebombing of a train linking India and Pakistan. Officials suspect that the attackers might have been hoping to spoil slowly improving relations between the two antagonistic nations.

Henry Chu writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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