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Indian court sentences 38 to death for fatal 2008 bombings

Nine men are presented to the media in hoods.
Nine men accused in a series of bombings in India are presented to the media in hoods in 2008.
(Ajit Solanki / Associated Press)
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A court in India on Friday sentenced to death 38 people for a series of bombings in 2008 that left more than 50 dead and 200 wounded in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state, which has a history of violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

The sentence must be confirmed by a higher court.

Judge A. R. Patel also sentenced 11 people to life imprisonment in the case in which more than a dozen bombs went off in several parts of Ahmedabad.

A Pakistani-based militant Islamic group called Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, which is believed to be no longer active, claimed responsibility for the bombings.

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The attacks occurred in two waves with explosive devices hidden in lunchboxes and bicycles. The first blasts took place near crowded shopping centers in Ahmedabad and the second about 20 minutes later in and around hospitals where the injured were being taken.

Doubts about India’s future as a secular state and liberal democracy grow amid rights abuses, shrinking civil liberties and religious intolerance.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister — the top elected official — of Gujarat state at the time.

The state has a history of tensions between Hindus and minority Muslims. It was the site of major violence in 2002 that left more than 1,000 people dead. It was triggered by a fire on a train packed with Hindu pilgrims that killed 60 passengers.

The cause was never proved, but Hindu extremists blamed the deaths on Muslims and reacted by rampaging through Muslim areas.

Patel last week convicted the accused of charges of murder, conspiracy to wage war against the state and illegal possession of arms. He acquitted 28 others for lack of evidence more than 13 years after the bombings killed 56 people on July 26, 2008.

The trial was concluded in September.

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