Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Curfew imposed after India blasts

Relative of a blast victim at a Jaipur hospital

A curfew has been imposed in the old city in Jaipur in western India after a series of bomb blasts killed 63 and left about 200 wounded.

The bombs went off near historic monuments in the crowded old city on Tuesday evening.

The head of state police said it was a terrorist attack. Police have detained a number of people for questioning.

Jaipur, in Rajasthan, is a popular tourist destination about 260km (160 miles) from the Indian capital, Delhi.

No group has admitted planting bombs in Jaipur. It is not yet clear what the motive for attacking the city might be.

Most people in Jaipur are Hindus but the city has a large Muslim minority. Correspondents say it has no history of religious violence.

There have been sporadic bomb attacks around India in recent years. The police have had little success in bringing prosecutions.

Crowded markets

The curfew began at 0900 (0300 GMT) on Wednesday and is expected to last until the evening.

The bomb blast aftermath

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Jaipur says that the old city is completely deserted apart from journalists and policemen moving around.

People were milling on the streets and there was some traffic the morning after the blast. Police were seen asking people to leave the area and return home.

The bustling old city has been cordoned off by the police for investigation. Its shops will remain closed on Wednesday.

Police reinforcements have been deployed in the city to maintain order.

Security has been stepped up at airports and railway stations across the country, officials said.

Eight bombs went off in the heart of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan state, starting at around 1915 local time (1345 GMT) on Tuesday.

Each came a few minutes apart and eyewitnesses spoke of panic and then a stampede in the crowded old walled city.

Television pictures showed scenes of twisted debris and pools of blood on the streets.


Mohammad Fareed had just alighted from a rickshaw when he was hit by a rain of shrapnel in Badi Chaupad near the bangle-seller.

"It was like lightning hit me," one survivor, Mohammed Fareed, told the BBC. "And then I was lying down by the road side."

"People were running around, shouting 'blast, blast'. Some people helped me and then the police arrived and brought me to the hospital."

Medical authorities have appealed for blood donations for the injured.

One bomb exploded close to Jaipur's most famous landmark, the historic Hawa Mahal, or palace of winds.

Indian President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the attacks and the prime minister appealed for calm.

Jaipur is an extremely popular stop on India's primary tourist circuit known as "The Golden Triangle", which takes in other historic sites of Rajasthan and the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh state.

It is known as the Pink City, because of the colour of its forts, palaces and city walls.

On Tuesdays many devotees flock to a popular shrine in Jaipur's old city.


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