A previously unknown Islamic militant group claimed today to have carried out deadly bombings in the historic Indian city of Jaipur by planting bicycles packed with explosives on the city’s crowded streets, police said.
The claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, which killed 61 people, was reportedly made in videos and an email sent to Indian television stations and a Hindu nationalist political party, said Pankaj Singh, the city’s inspector-general of police.
Mr Singh said investigators were examining the video clips, which showed a bicycle with an alleged bomb strapped to it parked in a crowded market.
Mr Singh said investigators believe most of the bombs were placed in bags left on bicycles, which police have traced to two shops in Jaipur’s old city.
Police have also released a sketch of a man in his early 20s who is suspected of buying the bicycles, and have questioned nearly a dozen people. But no arrests have been made, Mr Singh said.
A previously unknown group calling itself the Indian Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the bombings in the two video clips, Mr Singh said. They also made the claim in an email sent to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which governs the state of Rajasthan, where Jaipur is located, the CNN-IBN television news channel reported.
In the email sent to the BJP, the group demanded India stop working with the US and Britain, CNN-IBN said. The email also says Jaipur, a city of pink-hued palaces that is popular with Indian and foreign tourists, was targeted to disrupt the tourism industry. There have been no reports of foreigners killed or wounded in the attack.
Police, meanwhile, revised the death toll from the attacks down to 61 from 80 and said only 90 people had been wounded, down from an initial figure of nearly 200. No explanation was offered for the changes.
Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress party, which heads India’s governing coalition, visited Jaipur on today along with Home Minister Shivraj Patil. They toured the blast sites and met with some of the wounded at a hospital.
Patil condemned the attacks and said “the guilty will be brought to justice.”
Apart from targeting a tourist centre, officials have said they believe the attacks were also intended to stoke tensions between India’s Hindu majority and its Muslim minority.
Authorities tried to prevent any retaliatory violence by imposing a day-long curfew for a second day in Jaipur’s walled old city, where the seven explosions took place.
Since the bombings, Indian authorities have repeatedly suggested blame would eventually fall on Islamic militant groups, many of which India accuses Pakistan of backing.
The attack came days after Indian soldiers came under fire trying to stop militants from crossing the frontier with Pakistan, and after 11 people were killed in fighting between security forces and Islamic militants in the Himalayan region.
Indian authorities say Pakistan-based Islamic extremist groups were behind those incidents and a spate of bombings that have killed hundreds in this predominantly Hindu country of 1.1 billion people since 2005. Pakistan, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, denies any role in the bombings.