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Three bombs rock riot-hit Indian city


By Thomas Kutty Abraham

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Three bombs have exploded in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, wounding 11 people and stoking fears of fresh religious violence, police say.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the crude devices that went off just after the morning rush hour on Wednesday in public buses in Hindu-dominated areas of riot-scarred Ahmedabad, Gujarat state's main commercial city.

"People were running helter-skelter," Dayabhai Barwad, a teashop owner, told Reuters.

The blasts came as worries about war between Hindu-majority India and Islamic Pakistan remained high over New Delhi's demands that Islamabad stop Muslim militants from staging raids in Indian territory.

Both sides have massed nearly a million men along their border since a December raid on India's parliament that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militant groups and analysts say another big guerrilla attack in the country could trigger a war.

Police and state officials have expressed fears some Muslims -- angered by recent Hindu mob killings of Muslims -- could be recruited by Islamic extremists to carry out reprisal attacks.

Ahmedabad Police Commissioner K.R. Kaushik said police had no evidence to suggest the bombs were planted by militants.

"All that we can say is the blasts were the work of some local people who wanted to disturb peace," he told reporters, appealing to residents to watch out for "strangers and eye-catching things abandoned in crowded places".

Kaushik said police had received information that troublemakers could be targeting crowded public areas and had stepped up security in such places as railway stations, parks and theatres after the blasts.

Another police official said the bombs appeared to be "crudely made and intended to create panic".

Police found an unexploded bomb in a parked bus and two bomb disposal experts were hurt when they dismantled another device in a house during a security sweep.

"Police are on high alert as this (explosion) is bound to create more trouble," deputy police commissioner Rahul Sharma told Reuters.

Ahmedabad has borne the brunt of India's worst Hindu-Muslim violence in a decade that erupted when a Muslim mob (sic) torched a train carrying Hindu activists on February 27, burning 59 people alive.

Officials say almost 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in an ensuing wave of reprisal killings and clashes but human rights groups say the death toll is at least 2,500.


Police and state officials have said any Muslim revenge attacks in Gujarat would be aimed at civilians and be intended to sow panic and anger in an already divided community.

The blasts created anxiety among residents of Ahmedabad where a night curfew is still in place in several areas hit by religious clashes and public buses were nearly empty.

"Gujarat has created history in the last three months with its violence. The reaction to this history was always coming," Tanubhai Shah, a government employee, said. "There could be more things like this in the coming days."

The religious violence was largely confined to Gujarat.

But the risks of a Muslim backlash have been heightened by India's military confrontation with Pakistan over the disputed Muslim territory of Kashmir where a separatist revolt has raged for more than a dozen years.

Muslims make up nine percent of Gujarat's 50 million people.

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