Three near-simultaneous explosions hit the Indian financial capital of Mumbai during rush-hour Wednesday evening. The blasts went off within minutes of each other, killing 21 people and wounding more than 100 others. The casualty count continues to rise as this is published.
Prithviraj Chavan, the top state official in the area, described the bombings as "an attack on the heart of India."
Targets of the attack included Zaveri Bazaar, an upscale jewelry market in South Mumbai, the Opera House business district, and the Dadar district.
The Zaveri Bazaar was earlier targeted in the 1993 serial blasts that killed 257 people and injured over 700 others. Mumbai police claim an improvised explosive device was placed inside an umbrella to carry out the attack there.
A National Investigative Agency (NIA) team has been flown into Mumbai from Delhi to investigate the attacks. Several metropolitan Indian cities, including Mumbai, have been placed on high alert.
The indigenous terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) is suspected to be behind the attacks. The IM has ties to the Pakistan-based terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Tayibba (LeT), which was behind the November 2008 terrorist strike on Mumbai that killed 166 people.
The date and time of the attack may have been a factor leading Indian investigators to suspect the IM. The IM has in the past followed a pattern when it comes to the date and time it launches its attacks. The group strikes on either the 13th or 26th of a month, the only significant departure being an attack in the city of Bangalore on July 25, 2008. The group is further known to launch attacks during evening hours.
Media reports also speculate that the attack came on the 24th birthday of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 attacks.
The IM is alleged to be part of the "Karachi Project," an undertaking of Lashkar and members of Pakistani's powerful military spy agency, the ISI, to train Indian jihadis to wage attacks on major urban centers in India. The terrorist group has been responsible for a number of attacks on Indian metropolitan cities in recent years, including an attack last year in the Indian city of Pune that killed nine people, including two foreigners, and wounded several others.
David Headley, the American who confessed to helping plot the 2008 Mumbai attacks, also scouted targets for the attack in Pune. Headley reportedly told FBI interrogators about the Karachi Project.
Headley pleaded guilty in March 2010 and was the prosecution's star witness in the trial of Chicago businessman Tahawuur Rana whose immigration company provided cover to Headley to scout targets for attacks in Mumbai and other Indian cities.
Rana was found guilty on charges of conspiring to attack a Danish newspaper and providing material support to Lashkar. He was acquitted, however, on the charge of conspiring to provide material support to the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
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