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Bombay Blasts Kill at Least 40, Hurt 150

August 25, 2003

BOMBAY, India (AP) _ Two bomb blasts rocked a crowded jewelry market and a historical landmark in India’s financial capital of Bombay on Monday, killing at least 40 people and wounding 150 others, a state government official said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts, but they came the same day as the release of a long-anticipated archaeological report on a religious site in northern India claimed by both Hindus and Muslims. The dispute has been linked to previous bombings.

The explosions shook buildings in Bombay and telephone lines were jammed and mobile phone services briefly crashed as panicked residents called family and friends.

Police issued security alerts for Bombay and New Delhi, the Indian capital, after the explosions, calling policemen back from leave in case of further trouble.

The bombings killed at least 40 people and wounded 150 others, said Kulkarni, an official in the office of the state’s deputy chief minister. His first name was not immediately available.

One explosion was at the Gateway of India, a famous seaside landmark and tourist attraction built by India’s former British colonizers to commemorate the 1911 visit of King George V, said Javed Ahmed, a police commissioner for Bombay.

The other bomb rocked the Zaveri Bazaar, a crowded market of jewelry stores, said a police official who asked not to be identified. Both spots are in southern Bombay. Police said earlier reports of four explosions had been wrong.

The carnage shocked even to those accustomed to bloodshed.

``I have never seen anything so horrible,″ said S. Manoj, a doctor at Bombay’s J.J. Hospital, describing a scene of ``body parts″ and burnt corpses. The parts were placed on stretchers, covered with blood-smeared white sheets and wheeled to the mortuary.

Manoj said some of the injured had been trampled in stampedes after the explosions, and came in with multiple broken bones.

The explosions terrified Bombay residents.

``The building we were in shook and we heard a loud noise,″ said Ingrid Alva, a public relations consultant who works near the gateway. ``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.″

The blast broke windows at the Taj Mahal Hotel, which is across the street from the gateway, and damaged cars in the parking lot, said Ravi Dubey, the hotel’s communications manager.

Stock prices fell quickly following the blast reports. The benchmark index of Bombay Stock Exchange, the Sensex, closed at 4,005, down 119 points or 3 percent.

The explosions came just hours after the release of the archaeological report on the disputed religious site in the northern town of Ayodhya. The site has sparked violence before.

In March, a bomb attack on a Bombay train, which police blamed on Islamic militants, killed 11 people and wounded 64 others. That explosion came a day after the 10th anniversary of a series of bombings in Bombay _ also blamed on Islamic militants _ which killed more than 250 people and injured 1,000.

Police say the bombings were in retaliation for the 1992 destruction by Hindus mobs of the Ayodhya mosque, and to avenge Muslim deaths in riots that followed.

A Hindu mob tore down the 16th-century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992, claiming Muslims had built it after razing a Hindu temple marking the birthplace of Rama. The mosque’s destruction ignited religious riots that killed 2,000 people across India, a predominantly Hindu country of more than 1 billion people, with the world’s largest Muslim minority of 140 million.

Hindus want to build a new temple on the disputed grounds near Ayodhya, 310 miles southeast of New Delhi. Muslims demand the land be returned to them so they can build a new mosque.

The report, issued by the government archaeological agency Monday, indicated there had been some sort of ancient structure at the site, lawyers for both sides said, though they disagreed on whether it said there had actually been a temple.

The report was released to lawyers and has not been made available to the public or the media.

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