TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Bomb Attack Puts Bombay Phone System Out of Service

Bomb Attack Puts Bombay Phone System Out of Service

Ramola Talwar Badam (
Tue, 11 Jul 2006 17:44:32 -0500

Bomb attack on Bombay trains kills 147, Injures Many Others
By RAMOLA TALWAR BADAM, Associated Press Writer

Eight bombs exploded in first-class compartments of packed Bombay
commuter trains Tuesday, killing 147 people and wounding hundreds in a
well-coordinated terror attack on the heart of a city that embodies
India's global ambitions.

Suspicion quickly fell on Kashmiri militants who have repeatedly
carried out nearly simultaneous explosions in attacks on Indian
cities, including bombings last year at three markets in New Delhi.

Pakistan, India's rival over the disputed territory of Kashmir,
quickly condemned Tuesday's bombings. Even so, India alleges that
Pakistan supports the Muslim militants, and analysts said a Kashmiri
link to the blasts could slow -- or perhaps even derail -- a peace
process that has gained momentum between the nuclear rivals over the
past several years.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said "terrorists" were behind the
attacks, which he called "shocking and cowardly attempts to spread a
feeling of fear and terror among our citizens."

Security was tightened in cities around the world from New Delhi to
New York after the eight blasts, which struck seven trains within
minutes of each other during the early evening rush hour. The bombings
appeared timed to inflict maximum carnage in this bustling Arabian Sea
port of 16 million, more than 6 million of whom ride the crowded rail
network daily.

Emergency crews struggled to treat survivors and recover the dead in
the wreckage during monsoon downpours, and the effort stretched into
the night. Survivors clutched bandages to their heads and faces, and
some frantically tried to use their cell phones. Luggage and debris
were spattered with blood.

The telephone network collapsed, adding to the sense of panic across
the city. With train services down until midnight or later, thousands
of people were stranded without any way of reaching their families.

There was no immediate indication if suicide bombers were
involved. Police inspector Ramesh Sawant said most of the victims
suffered head and chest injuries, leading authorities to believe the
bombs were placed in overhead luggage racks.

The Press Trust of India, citing railway officials, said all the
blasts hit first-class cars -- a sign the assailants were targeting
the professional class in a city that has come to embody India's 21st
century ambitions.

Bombay, also known as Mumbai, is the center of India's booming
financial industry and the home of Bollywood, a city that presents
itself to the world as a cosmopolitan metropolis where bankers dine
with movie stars and fashion models party until dawn.

While that image captures one side of life in the city, Bombay is also
crowded and largely poor. And across the city, the prosperous and
downtrodden worked together to aid survivors.

As police and rescue services struggled to reach the blast scenes
through Bombay's jammed, chaotic everyday traffic, bystanders pulled
the wounded from the debris, offering them water and bundling them
into every available vehicle -- from trucks to three-wheeled

Others wrapped bodies in railway blankets and carried them away. Police
collected body parts in white plastic bags streaked with blood and rain.

Those survivors who could walked from the stations to hospitals.

There, they found scenes of chaos and carnage.

Doctors and volunteers wheeled in the wounded and dead, one after the
other. Rickishaws waited in line with dead and wounded for a chance
to get into the hospital emergency room.

"I can't hear anything," said Shailesh Mhate, a man in his 20s,
sitting on the floor of Veena Desai Hospital surrounded by bloody
cotton swabs. "People around me didn't survive. I don't know how I

Another man, bloody bandages over his eyes, held out a phone to a
nurse, begging her to call his wife and tell her he was OK. The
nurse tried to explain to the man that 'the phones are not working
right now.'

The first bombing hit a train at Bandra station at 6:20 p.m. The
blasts followed down the line of the Western Railway at or near
stations at Khar, Jogeshwari, Mahim, Mira Road, Matunga and finally
Borivili, which was struck by two blasts at 6:35 p.m., according to
the Star News channel. However, other reports gave different

Some passengers reportedly jumped from speeding trains in panic.

Maharashtra state Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said after meeting
with his Cabinet that the death toll was 147, with 439 others wounded,
as of Tuesday night.

In Washington, the State Department said it had no information about
whether there were any American casualties.

All of India's major cities were reportedly on high alert following
the attacks, which came hours after a series of grenade attacks by
Islamic militants killed eight people in the main city of India's part
of Kashmir.

Reflecting the fears of coordinated or copycat bombings throughout the
world, even New York City increased its transit security Tuesday with
hundreds more officers patrolling the subways and more random bag

"We take a terror attack in any place in the world, especially one on
a public transport system, as a serious warning," New York Mayor
Michael Bloomberg said. Bloomberg also noted, "if they did the same
thing here, it would completely knock out our cell phone system also."

Commuter transit systems have been tempting targets for terrorists in
recent years, with bombers killing 191 in Madrid in 2004 and 52 in
London last year.

Bombay suffered blasts in 1993 that included the Bombay Stock
Exchange, killing more than 250 people.

A senior Bombay police official, P.S. Pasricha, said Tuesday's
explosions were part of a well-coordinated attack. "Doing it at a
time when trains were ordinarily more crowded, and hitting several
trains over a distance apart from each other showed us they were
'professional and well-trained in their approach", noted Parischa.

Police reportedly carried out raids across the country following the
blasts. One TV station said a suspect was in custody.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the subcontinent was
partitioned upon independence from Britain in 1947, two over Kashmir.

Dozens of militant groups have been fighting Indian rule in Kashmir,
demanding the largely Muslim region's independence or merger with
Pakistan. New Delhi has accused Pakistan of training, arming and
funding the militants. Islamabad insists it only offers the rebels
diplomatic and moral support.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf offered condolences over the
loss of life Tuesday, his Foreign Ministry said, adding: "Terrorism is
a bane of our times and it must be condemned, rejected and countered
effectively and comprehensively."

Accusations of Pakistani involvement in a 2001 attack on India's
parliament put the nuclear-armed rivals on the brink of a fourth
war. But since then, Pakistan and India have embarked on a peace
process aimed at resolving their differences, including the claims to
all of Kashmir.

In Washington, a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity
because the events were still unfolding said the coordination of
Tuesday's attacks and the targeting of trains at peak travel times
match the modus operandi of two Islamic groups active in India during
the last several years: Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. "We do
not know where this is going as of now," he said. The U.S. government
has designated both terrorist organizations and considers them
affiliates of al-Qaida.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press.

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