Three near-simultaneous explosions rocked Mumbai at rush-hour on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people in what the government said appeared to be another terrorist strike in the city hit by a major attack nearly three years ago.
Security vigil across the country, particularly in metro cities, was stepped up after three explosions rocked Mumbai on Wednesday evening, official sources said.
According to home ministry officials, all state governments have been asked to heighten security measures.
“All the state governments have been asked to increase police patroling and keep forces on high alert,” a home ministry official said.
The increased security measures come as more than a dozen people were reported injured in 3 explosions that rocked Mumbai Wednesday evening.
One blast took place in Dadar in central Mumbai and the other 2 in Zaveri Bazar and the Opera House in south Mumbai.
All 3 are busy commercial and residential areas.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the latest attack killed 17 people, and Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the toll was likely to rise.
Television footage showed dozens of police officials, several of them armed, at the sites of the explosion and at least 1 car with its windows shattered. A photograph showed victims of a blast at the Zaveri Bazaar crowding into the back of a cargo truck to be taken to a hospital.
Because of the close timing of the string of explosions, “We infer that this was a coordinated attack by terrorists,” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.
One blast hit the crowded neighborhood of Dadar in central Mumbai. The others were at the Zaveri Bazaar, which is a famed jewelry market, and the busy business district of Opera House, both in southern Mumbai and several miles (kilometers) apart, police said.
All 3 blasts happened from 6:50 pm to 7:00 pm, when all the neighborhoods would have been packed with office workers and commuters.
The 2008 attack killed 166 people and was blamed on Pakistan-based militant groups. Tensions escalated between the countries, and peace talks were suspended. The talks recently resumed.
Soon after Wednesday’s blasts were reported, Pakistan’s government expressed distress on the loss of lives and injuries.
The blasts would mark the first major attack on Mumbai since the November 2008 violence, when 10 terrorists laid siege to the city for 60 hours, targeting 2 luxury hotels, a Jewish center, and a busy train station. There was no immediate indication that Wednesday’s blasts were part of a prolonged siege.
An improvised explosive device was used to carry out at least 1 of the 3 near simultaneous blasts that ripped through populated areas of India’s financial capital of Mumbai on Wednesday, the city’s police chief said.
Arup Patnaik, Mumbai’s police commissioner told local television that an improvised explosive device (IED) was put inside an umbrella at Zaveri Bazaar, one of the 3 blast sites.
Mumbai has been on edge since then. In December, authorities deployed extra police on city streets after receiving intelligence that a Pakistan-based militant group was planning an attack over New Year’s weekend. Police conducted house-to-house searches in some neighborhoods for 4 men who authorities believe entered the city to carry out a terrorist attack, and computer-aided photographs of the 4 suspects were released.
In March 2010, Mumbai police said they prevented a major terrorist strike after they arrested 2 Indian men, who, police said, were preparing to hit several targets in the city. Then in September, police issued a terror alert for the city during a popular Hindu festival.