Bombings devastate central Mumbai

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Policemen inspect the site of a bomb explosion at Zaveri bazar in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Near-simultaneous bomb blasts rocked three busy neighborhoods during evening rush hour in India’s busy financial capital Wednesday, killing at least 17 people in what the government called an apparent terrorist attack on the city beseiged by militants nearly three years ago.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

MUMBAI, India — Three coordinated bombings tore through the heart of India’s busy financial capital during rush hour Wednesday, killing 21 people and wounding 141 in the worst terror attack in the country since the 2008 Mumbai siege.

Bloody bodies were strewn in the dirt of Mumbai’s crowded neighborhoods and markets. Doors were ripped off storefronts, motorcycles were charred and a bus stop was shredded. After the blasts in three separate neighborhoods, police set up checkpoints and were put on high alert.

The bombings came just months after peace talks resumed between India and Pakistan, which New Delhi has blamed for past attacks.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts and appealed to the people of Mumbai “to remain calm and show a united face.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and Indian officials refused to speculate on who might be behind the blasts.

Indian officials have accused Pakistan’s powerful spy agency of helping coordinate and fund earlier attacks, including the Mumbai siege, which killed 166 people over three days. Peace talks between the countries were suspended after the siege and resumed only recently.

Pakistan’s government expressed distress about the loss of lives and injuries soon after Wednesday’s blasts were reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama also condemned the “outrageous attacks.”

“The American people will stand with the Indian people in times of trial, and we will offer support to India’s efforts to bring the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice,” he said in a statement. “I have no doubt that India will overcome these deplorable terrorist attacks.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she will go ahead with her plans to visit India next week despite the bombings.

The bombings began with an explosion that ripped through the famed Jhaveri Bazaar jewelry market at 6:54 p.m. A minute later, a blast hit the busy business district of Opera House, several miles away in southern Mumbai. At 7:05 p.m., the third bomb exploded in the crowded neighborhood of Dadar in central Mumbai, according to police.

Because of the close timing of the blasts, “we infer that this was a coordinated attack by terrorists,” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.

Survivors carried the wounded to taxis. One man was dragged out of the area on a red board used as a stretcher. Bleeding victims crowded into the back of a cargo truck to be taken to a hospital, where wards were filled with the wounded, slathered in white burn cream.

At Jhaveri Bazaar, a witness described two motorcycles exploding in flames and saw at least six bodies.

“People were shouting ‘Help me, help me,’” the man told Headlines Today television.

Crowds gathered in the blast areas as police questioned witnesses, and investigators wearing gloves sifted through the debris for clues.

The government said the blasts killed 21 people and wounded 141 others.

“India is not going to cow down,” Cabinet minister Farooq Abdullah said. “Let those perpetrators of this terror remember, we will find them and Inshallah (God willing) we will give them the justice that India believes in.”

A U.S. official said there were no immediate claims of responsibility, or firm indication of which terrorist group might be behind the attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

The blasts marked the first major attack on Mumbai since 10 militants laid siege to the city for 60 hours in November 2008.