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The sheer number of targets across a country of 1.2 billion, makes it nearly impossible to protect, officials said.

“It’s very difficult to stop every single terror attack,” said Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader of the ruling Congress Party.

At Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Mumbai train station where 52 people were gunned down in the 2008 attacks, armed railway police — some of them behind sandbagged barricades — struggled Thursday to monitor the crush of passengers. An estimated 3.75 million commuters on more than 1,600 trains pass through India’s busiest train station every day.

“The crowds are so dense during peak hours it would be impossible to keep a check, even with the most stringent security,” said station manager D. K. Gupta.

Mumbai, a city of 18 million people, is the heart of India’s business community. It houses the country’s stock exchange and the popular Bollywood film industry.

At the scene of the bombings, investigators struggled to preserve evidence with plastic sheets as a driving rain washed away the bloodstains.

One bomb had been placed on a bus shelter, another was hidden under some garbage on the road, while the third was stashed under an umbrella, officials said. All were improvised explosive devices made of ammonium nitrate with electronic detonators, authorities said.

“The IEDs were not crude and showed some amount of sophistication and training,” said R.K. Singh, India’s home secretary.

Investigators were viewing closed circuit television footage and speaking to wounded witnesses to try to put together a picture of what happened at each location, Rakesh Maria, the head of Mumbai’s Anti-Terror Squad, told reporters.

Rakesh Mehta, an accountant who travels every day through the warren of narrow lanes and tiny goldsmith workshops in the jewelry market, said he was badly shaken.

“In these uncertain times, I find myself stopping at any temple that I pass,” he said.

Indian officials refused to speculate on who might be behind the attack.

“We are not pointing a finger at this stage,” Chidambaram said. “We have to look at every possible hostile group and find out whether they are behind the blast.”

A former top intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, said the attack had the hallmarks of the Indian Mujahideen, an Islamic militant group linked to Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba that has claimed past terror attacks that used similar explosives.

Local police arrested two members of the group in recent days and there was speculation the blasts could have been retaliation.

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