BANGALORE, India Major Indian cities remain on high alert following 17 blasts in a space of an hour in the western city of Ahmedabad and seven bombings here late last week.
On Tuesday (July 29), panic gripped the city of Surat, in the northwestern state of Gujarat, where police recovered and defused 17 bombs. During the blasts over the weekend, more than 50 people were killed and another 150 injured.
All the explosions bore uncanny similarities; all were smaller charges and were placed in bicycles and lunch boxes.
Officials have yet to capture the culprits, but numerous theories have been floated to explain the motivation behind the bombings. According to a report in The Times of India, India continues to suffer at the hands of terrorists, indigenous as well as from Pakistan and Bangladesh. "The recently initiated attempts of the clerics and other leaders of the Muslim community to condemn the resort to terrorism is not yet having any impact on the younger elements," B. Raman, a noted security expert and former head of India's intelligence outfit, the Research and Analysis Wing, wrote in an article.
An Islamist group calling itself the "Indian Mujahideen'' claimed responsibility for the attacks in Ahmedabad. The organization emerged when it claimed responsibility in May for similar bomb attacks that killed 63 people in the northwestern city of Jaipur and in three other northern Indian cities last November in which more than a dozen people were killed and 80 injured.
Security analysts described the Indian Mujahideen as a relatively unknown group that could be a new terrorist network formed by Indian fundamentalists or as an extension of a foreign militant organization.
"Whenever there is a major terrorist strike anywhere in India, I immediately receive a large number of telephone calls from journalists and others in India," Raman said. After the July 25 attacks in Bangalore, Raman said "I got more telephone calls and messages from abroad than from India. Many were executives of foreign corporate houses having offices in Bangalore and wanted to know whether the blasts were meant to convey a message to foreign investors [and] businessmen."
The large concentration of U.S. companies here has made it a target for more than two years. "If doubts arise as a result of incidents like those of July 25, [Bangalore's] reputation for security could be dented, thereby affecting the flow of foreign investments," Raman said.
Still, motives behind the bombings remain unclear. Intelligence agencies speculated that they could be the result of political discord between pro-Hindu members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and an anti-Muslim party acting as the opposition to the ruling government. Other observers like Raman believe the bombings stem from the Indianization of a pan-Islamic holy war.
"It is only a question of time before the extremists from Pakistan and al Qaeda itself set up their own outfits or sleeper cells in India consisting only of Indian Muslims," Raman said.