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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Blasts Kill 48 in New Delhi; Scores Injured - New York Times

Blasts Kill 48 in New Delhi; Scores Injured - New York TimesOctober 30, 2005
Blasts Kill 48 in New Delhi; Scores Injured

NEW DELHI, Oct. 29 - An apparently coordinated succession of powerful explosions tore through two crowded markets and a public bus in the Indian capital early Saturday evening, killing dozens of people on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

The death toll stood at 48 Saturday night, according to the Indian Home Ministry, and was expected to rise. The police in New Delhi said that 155 people had been wounded.

The blasts occurred on the weekend before Diwali, the biggest Hindu festival observed in north India, and before Id al-Fitr, the festival that closes the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The market area at Paharganj, the site of the first blast, was strewn with blood, burned rickshaw parts and broken glass.

At the Sarojini Nagar market in the city's south, where the second blast struck a few minutes later, sweets, cash, and clay oil lamps littered the ground, the detritus of Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of lights. An amateur video broadcast on Indian television showed civilians carrying away the wounded in handcarts.

"It is something that has been planned, that is quite obvious," Sheila Dixit, the chief minister for Delhi State, said, according to Reuters. "It is far too early to say who is behind it."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement from the eastern city of Kolkata, saying: "The government is determined to defeat nefarious designs of terrorist elements. The perpetrators of these heinous acts will be dealt with firmly."

The Indian government has plenty of armed enemies, ranging from Islamist militants fighting over Kashmir, to Sikh separatists, to ethnic guerrillas in the country's northeast.

No one claimed immediate responsibility for the blasts.

India's neighbor and rival, Pakistan, immediately condemned the bombings; India has accused Pakistan of collusion in militant attacks in Kashmir, the Himalayan province that both countries claim.

Several deadly attacks have struck New Delhi in recent years.

In May, blasts at two movie theaters left one dead. In December 2001, militants stormed Parliament in an assault that left 12 people dead, including the five attackers. And in December 2000, three people were killed in an attack on the historic Red Fort in the heart of the capital.

Police officers at the scene of the first blast, at the busy Paharganj market in central New Delhi, said that at least 8 people were killed and at least 27 injured in that explosion, which came around 5:30 p.m., a peak shopping hour.

Blood and glass, threaded with pieces of ripped clothing, were strewn on the streets in the district, which is outside the New Delhi railway station and is popular with budget travelers. Witnesses said a woman and her infant were among the dead and injured.

The wreckage of two rickshaws, one blown apart, lay near a crater in front of the M. L. Jewelers shop in the market.

The blast blew in the front of the shop, and police officers with flashlights and a search dog were combing the ruins on Saturday evening.

"I heard just a blast, and everything came down: tubes, glass, show windows," said R. K. Chawla, the owner of an export-import shop called Jack and Jill International across the street from the explosion.

Mr. Chawla said he saw six or seven women lying on the ground. One woman's sari had caught fire, and he said he grabbed bedsheets from a nearby vendor and used them to douse the flames.

"It was so loud, the whole of Paharganj shook," another shopkeeper, Chander Mohan, said. "Like an earthquake."

At Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, where the injured from the Paharganj blast were taken, the doctor in charge of the emergency ward, S. K. Sharma, said four victims were declared dead on arrival.

At Sarojini Nagar, a Diwali holiday market drew extra large crowds on Saturday evening. Witnesses said at least two dozen injured had been taken to area hospitals.

Among them was the family of Kishan Kawar, who was standing in the market with his son, Sumit, in his arms, as his wife, Vandana, shopped for a pair of sandals. The blast tore his son from his arms and put his wife in the intensive care unit of Safdarjung Hospital with serious burns. It took Mr. Kawar 10 minutes to find his son, who was burned on his face and hand, among the injured in the ruins.

The third blast took place inside a public bus shortly before 6 p.m. in the industrial area of Govindpuri, also in the city's south.

The city's fire chief, R. C. Sharma, said three people were killed in that explosion.

Hari Kumar and P. J. Anthony contributed reporting for this article.

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