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Indian attacks were ‘not a failure of intelligence,’ official says

Los Angeles Times

Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told reporters Thursday it is too early to blame any particular militant group or individual for Wednesday’s deadly blasts that struck Mumbai at rush hour but the coordinated attack was the crafty work of terrorists.

He also defended the intelligence services’ record in the run-up to the three explosions that struck central and southern Mumbai, while adding that they had no information this was coming.

“Whoever planned this attack worked in a very, very clandestine manner,” he told reporters Thursday morning. “It’s not a failure of intelligence.”

The home minister also amended the casualty figures, reporting that 18 people had died rather than the 21 earlier cited by a top state official, with 131 hospitalized. Of those injured, 26 have been discharged, 82 are stable and 23 are seriously injured, some in critical condition. One victim whose head was severed remains unidentified, he added.

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Investigators are combing the wreckage, he added, and have concluded that ammonium nitrate was used in the explosives, which were not remotely triggered.

The explosions took place in the crowded Dadar market area of central Mumbai, located near a major railway station, in the Zaveri Bazaar jewelry district and in the Opera House neighborhood, one of the world’s busiest diamond districts.

Preliminary results suggest Dadar suffered a low-intensity blast while the Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House explosions were of medium to high intensity, Chidambaram said.

Chidambaram -- who became home minister after the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people and held the city hostage for 60 hours -- has vowed to improve security and strengthen coordination between national and local law enforcement.

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On Thursday the home minister praised the people of Mumbai for their resilience and fortitude in getting back to work and rebuilding their city.

“People of Mumbai have responded splendidly,” he said in the televised press conference. “Today I find children are going to school and people are going back to work; that is the resolute response one expects from a city like Mumbai.”

But many citizens in Mumbai and beyond remained critical of their government for not protecting them.

“What I want to really tell the home minister is that this is a wake-up call,” said Hemant Mehta, 28, who was working in the Opera House neighborhood when the attack happened. “For a person, when he goes out of his house, he does not know if he will be safe, this is the pinnacle of shamelessness for the world’s largest democracy.”

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The anger and discontent played out online as well. “Oh please! Would you stop harping about the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ already?” wrote Pearl Mistry Driver on Facebook. “This ‘spirit of Mumbai’ does not prevent such acts of terror ... People are afraid after a terrorist attack, but they’re more afraid of losing their jobs and their livelihood.”

mark.magnier@latimes.com

Anshul Rana in the New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.


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