The Indian city of Jaipur was put under curfew today amid fears of retaliation against its Muslim minority after a series of bombs killed at least 80 people.
Islamic militants are suspected for the blasts, and police moved quickly to stop any violence by the city’s Hindu majority.
People were kept off the streets of Jaipur’s old walled city, where all seven bombs exploded yesterday.
The bombers may have been aiming “to create communal tension,” said Vasundhara Raje, the chief minister of Rajasthan state. “But there is peace in the city. The curfew is a precaution.”
With police seemingly everywhere, streets in the old city were largely empty of pedestrians, and shops throughout the rest of Jaipur were also shuttered.
The attack came a week before India’s foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, was to visit Pakistan to discuss the rivals’ four-year peace process.
Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said Mr Mukherjee would press Islamabad to act against Pakistan-based Islamic militant groups, which India accuses Pakistan of backing.
“The absence of violence and stopping cross-border terrorism is a very high priority for India,” he said.
But he stopped short of blaming Pakistan for the attack.
“We are still in the process of investigating. I don’t want to jump to conclusions,” he said.
Police in Jaipur have so far questioned nearly a dozen people. But no arrests have been made.
Nearly 200 people were wounded in the explosions in the city in western India known for its pink-hued palaces.
An eighth bomb was found and defused.
“Obviously, it’s a terrorist plot,” AS Gill, the police chief of Rajasthan, said hours after the attack. “The way it has been done, the attempt was to cause the maximum damage to human life.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, as is the case with most bombings in India.
But soon after the attack, authorities were suggesting blame would eventually fall on Pakistan and the Islamic militant groups India accuses it of backing.
“One can’t rule out the involvement of a foreign power,” said India’s junior home minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, using language commonly understood to refer to Pakistan.
He suggested the bombings were connected to previous attacks on India, saying that “the blasts are part of a big conspiracy.”
Indian authorities have blamed Pakistan-based Islamic extremist groups for a spate of bombings that have killed nearly 400 people in this predominantly Hindu country of 1.1 billion people since 2005.
Pakistan, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, denies any role in the bombings.
The attacks have ranged from July 2006 train bombings that killed nearly 200 people in Mumbai, India’s financial centre to small blasts like the one that struck a Muslim shrine in Rajasthan last year, killing two people.
Each new bombing has brought fears of a new outbreak of violence between Hindus and Muslims.