India Train Explosions Take High Toll

Police and onlookers stand around a mangled commuter train. Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty i

Police and onlookers stand around a mangled commuter train following a series of blasts that targeted trains Tuesday evening in Mumbai. Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty hide caption

itoggle caption Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty
Police and onlookers stand around a mangled commuter train. Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty

Police and onlookers stand around a mangled commuter train following a series of blasts that targeted trains Tuesday evening in Mumbai.

Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty

At least five explosions hit commuter railways at rush hour in the Indian city of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. Early reports indicate at least 135 people are dead, and another 250 injured. The blasts appear to be part of a pattern of bombings. Justin Huggler, a correspondent for London's The Independent newspaper, talks to Alex Chadwick about the attacks.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, in Afghanistan, the Taliban targets schools for girls.

CHADWICK: First, a series of seven explosions struck the commuter rail line in the Indian city of Mumbai, today. It's also known as Bombay.

Officials first reported at least 20 people killed, and then 80, and then more than 100. They shut down the entire train system and told people to stay away from train stations.

Justin Huggler is a correspondent for The Independent newspaper. He joins me from New Delhi.

Justin, what more can you give us on these bombings?

Mr. JUSTIN HUGGLER (Reporter, The Independent): There's nothing more that's confirmed at the moment, except that the Indian authorities have said they're expecting an attack, but they didn't know where and when.

But what is unconfirmed at the moment, are reports that intelligence sources suspect that this is the work of Lashkar e Taiba, a militant Islamic group that generally concentrates on Kashmir.

CHADWICK: It's a militant Islamic group linked to the province of Kashmir, on the border with Pakistan.

Mr. HUGGLER: Yeah. Lashkar e Taiba is a group based inside Pakistan, whose membership is drawn mostly from Pakistanis who infiltrate into the Indian side of Kashmir, to carry out attacks inside Indian Kashmir or inside Indian proper.

CHADWICK: Are they linked to earlier attacks, this group?

Mr. HUGGLER: Yes. To lots of small-scale attacks inside Kashmir. They were certainly accused of being behind bombings in Delhi, last autumn, on a series of shopping markets on the last shopping day before a major religious festival, here. And they've been accused of links to various other attacks.

CHADWICK: Would this be on a different scale? I mean, this is a coordinated set of bombings - seven different bombs going off on seven different trains, over a period of some time - it's a pretty significant terrorist act, it seems to me.

Mr. HUGGLER: It's certainly on a different scale. It's much more reminiscent of the scale of bombings that were carried out in Bombay in 1993, which were considered to be the work of, basically, of Mafia gangsters in Bombay, who turned dramatically and unexpectedly to political bombings.

They were a Muslim group of gangsters, and it was a time of great sectarian tension between Hindus and Muslims. This group, the D Company of Daud Ibrahim, suddenly turned to political bombing.

CHADWICK: Just in - just in the last months, there have been so many glowing stories about the India economy, about a new vitality in India. This is really going to be a blow to the entire nation, isn't it?

Mr. HUGGLER: Well, it will be a blow. India tends to take these blows in its stride. I mean, there will be a lot of anger, but I don't think it will dent Indian confidence.

Bombay is certainly the city at the forefront of India's rapidly expanding economy, and so any attack on Bombay is an attack on their new Indian strength, in a way that an attack on Delhi, for instance, would not be.

But more than 250 people died in the bombings of 1993, and Bombay came right back from it. There's great resilience to these things, in India.

CHADWICK: Justin Huggler, a correspondent for The Independent newspaper. He's based in Delhi in India.

Justin, thank you.

Mr. HUGGLER: Thank you.

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