Indian Government Chases Leads in Mumbai Bombings

Last week, a series of explosions rocked the Indian city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Nearly 200 people died in the attacks. John Ydstie talks to Khozen Merchant of the Financial Times about how the investigation into the terrorist attacks is progressing.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

It was a week ago Tuesday, that seven deadly explosions shook commuter trains in Mumbai, India, killing more than 200 people. Earlier this week, trains, cars and pedestrians stopped for two minutes of silence during the evening rush hour.

Police continue their investigation into who was behind the attacks. They have rounded up and questioned hundreds of people in the city, many of them Muslim. Most of them have been released. India's prime minister has called for a review of relations with Pakistan, questioning Pakistani involvement in the bombings.

Khozen Merchant is a reporter for the Financial Times in Mumbai. Mr. Merchant, thanks for joining us.

Mr. KHOZEN MERCHANT (Reporter, Financial Times, Mumbai): Hi. Hello, nice to be with you.

YDSTIE: Bring us up-to-date on the investigation, please?

Mr. MERCHANT: Well, five people have been arrested in a town called Nashik in Northern Maharashtra, whose capital of course is Mumbai. Very few details have been released about them, other than they are men and presumably also Muslim, which is the broad characteristic of most of the people who have been arrested so far, several hundred.

Most of these people have been held for a number of hours, questioned and then released, and there hasn't been any conclusive arrest and charging of individuals yet.

YDSTIE: One piece of evidence that the police seem to have is the type of explosive that was used, and it's also an explosive used by separatist rebels in Kashmir.

Mr. MERCHANT: That's correct. Police found, early on, evidence to suggest that a device called RDX, which is a commodity used in fairly sophisticated explosives - used by organized terrorist groups in Kashmir, for example - was also used in the bombings. And on the basis of that, they have been able to link culpability for this most recent explosion with groups such as those that operate in Kashmir.

It at least tells us one thing, which is the people who planned and carried out this attack were organized, sophisticated, and knew how to handle deadly explosive devices.

YDSTIE: And of course, Pakistan has supported separatist rebels in Kashmir. Is that why India's prime minister has called for this review of relations with Pakistan?

Mr. MERCHANT: If there is one conclusive thought that's emerged from this tragedy it is that there appears to be the involvement of Pakistani supported groups. Everyone in the Indian political establishment have said as much, and the Indian intelligence community has been leaking information, furiously, about this. So about that, there seems to be no disputes.

YDSTIE: But is there any hard evidence that the Pakistanis were involved?

Mr. MERCHANT: The only evidence linking the Pakistani hand in this is the manner in which the bombs were planned and the attack carried out - the sophistication of devices used. For example, timers were used and the attacks were all synchronized in a fairly sophisticated way. So it's a character of the explosion that points to Pakistan.

In addition to that, there's been plenty of e-mail evidence cropping up, incriminating organizations which have an obvious Pakistan association - I mean a self-confessed Pakistan association.

YDSTIE: Khozen Merchant is a reporter for the Financial Times in Mumbia, India. Thanks very much for joining us.

Mr. MERCHANT: Thank you.

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