- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

MUMBAI (AP) | An Indian court sentenced two men and a woman to death Thursday for their roles in a 2003 terrorist attack in Mumbai that killed 52 people. Investigators said they belonged to the same banned militant group blamed for attacks in the city last year in which 166 people died.

Two taxis carrying explosives blew up within minutes of each other Aug. 25, 2003, at a popular tourist attraction on the city’s waterfront and at a busy shopping complex. In addition to the dead, 100 were wounded in the attacks.

Ashrat Shafiq Mohammed Ansari, Syed Mohammed Haneef Abdul Rahim and his wife, Fahmeeda Syed Mohammed Haneef, were convicted last month of murder, conspiracy to kill and damaging public property.

Ujjwal Nikam, the public prosecutor, said he welcomed the court’s decision to impose the death penalty.

The three had pleaded not guilty, and their lawyers said they plan to appeal the verdict to the state high court.

Three others were arrested in connection with the attacks but were released without charge.

Investigators think the bombings were revenge for religious riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002.

About 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed when Hindu mobs rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods, towns and villages in the state in 2002. The riots were triggered by a fire that killed 60 people on a train packed with Hindu pilgrims. Hindu extremists blamed the deaths on Muslims, but the cause of the blaze remains unclear.

Investigators had said all three were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned Pakistan-based militant group formed in the 1980s - with the purported blessing of Pakistani intelligence officials - to sow trouble in the disputed Kashmir region. The three denied involvement with the group.

Indian investigators also blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for attacks last year in Mumbai, where gunmen killed 166 people in a three-day rampage.

The lone surviving suspected gunman in that attack, 21-year-old Pakistani Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, is on trial in Mumbai. He faces a possible death penalty if convicted.

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