Bicycle bombs kill 31, injures 100 in Indian city
The Associated Press
Two bombs rigged to bicycles tore through a crowd of Muslim worshippers leaving Friday afternoon prayers at a mosque in a Western Indian city, killing 31 people and injuring 100 in what a top official called "a terrorist act."
Authorities clamped a curfew over the western city of Malegaon, which has a long history of violence between Muslims and Hindus, to stop revenge attacks. Past sectarian attacks have set off spiralling violence.
"There's a high alert across the state," P.S. Pasricha, Maharashtra state's director general of police, told the Associated Press. "We have activated all police machinery to ensure that communal harmony is maintained."
Officials said the bombings were clearly intended to terrorize the city of about 500,000 people, which is 75 per cent Muslim.
The office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he "appealed for peace and communal harmony and has urged all citizens across the country to remain calm."
The explosions came as Muslims celebrated the festival of shabe barat, or the night of fortune, when they hold long prayer sessions seeking divine blessings, exchange sweets with neighbours and relatives and set off fireworks.
"It is a terrorist act. It is done by people who don't want peace," Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told a news conference in Mumbai, the state capital. He said 56 of the 100 people injured were seriously hurt.
Both bombs were rigged to bicycles, he said.
"We found packets with the explosives attached to these bicycles," he said.
Pasricha told reporters that "the motive appears to be to create panic and make Hindus and Muslims fight with each other."