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India - background

Two decades of bombings and shootings

by Tony Cross

Article published on the 2008-11-28 Latest update 2008-12-01 13:22 TU

Members of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad burn an effigy representing "terrorism" in the north Indian city Amritsar after the Mumbai attacks(Photo: Reuters)

Members of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad burn an effigy representing "terrorism" in the north Indian city Amritsar after the Mumbai attacks
(Photo: Reuters)

India is no stranger to political and sectarian violence and its crowded commercial capital, Mumbai, has been the scene of many of its bloodiest incidents. The last two decades have seen bombings, riots, pogroms and armed rebellions.

A little-known Islamic group, the Deccan Mujahedeen, appears to have claimed responsibility for this week’s attacks. But Islamists are not the only people to have taken up arms. Maoist guerrillas, known as Naxalites, are active in several states, while there are separatist rebellions in several others.

Sectarian riots, such as the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002, have also claimed thousands of lives.

Muslims in Ahmedabad honour the victims of the Mumbai attacks (Photo: Reuters)

Muslims in Ahmedabad honour the victims of the Mumbai attacks
(Photo: Reuters)

India has frequently accused Pakistan, and more recently Bangladesh, of being behind Muslim armed groups which operate on its soil.  Islamabad denies involvement and says it wants to work with Delhi to fight “terrorism” but Pakistan’s secret services, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), are known to have trained militants to fight in the Indian part of the divided state of Jammu and Kashmir, the majority of whose population is Muslim.

Violence has escalated this year, including attacks in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Assam, prompting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to announce the formation of an anti-terror task force on Sunday. Home Ministry figures show 64 bomb attacks in six months, leaving more than 215 people dead and 900 injured.

Here are some of the major attacks of the past 20 years:

Mumbai, 1993: The country’s most deadly bombings; 15 co-ordinated blasts kill 257 and wound over 1,000; they are believed to be in retaliation for anti-Muslim riots the previous December and January which left 900 dead; police blame Muslim crime boss Dawood Ibrahim and claim he had ISI backing.

Coimbatore, 1998: A string of 13 car bombs kill 46 and injure 200 in the Tamil Nadu city; blamed on the Al Umma Islamist group.

New Delhi, 2001: Five gunmen, one wearing a suicide vest, attack the parliament complex, killing seven; all the attackers die in the attack; four members of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed are later convicted of plotting the attack.

Gandhinagar, 2002:  Gunmen attack the Akshardham Hindu temple in the Gujarat state capital, killing 34 and injuring 81; officials blame the Kashmiri Islamist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Mumbai, 2003: Bomb on a computer train kills 11 in May; in August two car bombs, one near the Taj hotel the other in a jewellery market, kill at least 45 and injure 150; officials blame Lashkar-e-Taiba.

New Delhi, 2005: Three bombs explode in markets two days before the Hindu Diwali festival, killing 61 and injuring 210; a little-known Kashmiri group, Islami Inqilabi Mahaz, claims responsibility but the authorities blame Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Mumbai, 2006: Seven bombs explode on rush-hour commuter trains, killing at least 200 and injuring 700; police blame Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Students Islamic Movement of India.

Varanasi 2006: Bombs in several temples and the railway station of one of Hinduism's most holy cities cost 20 lives.

Hyderabad, 2007: A bomb at Mecca mosque during Friday prayers in May leads to riots; 13 killed, including four by police; in August at least 42 are killed by two bombs in a park and a restaurant; police reportedly defuse another bomb.

Varanasi, Lucknow, Faizabad 2007: Six consecutive blasts in three Uttar Pradesh state claims 15 lives and injure 57.