Sunday, October 30, 2005

NEW DELHI — A little-known group that police say has ties to Kashmir’s most feared militants took responsibility yesterday for a series of bombings that killed 59 persons in New Delhi.

Authorities said they had gathered clues about the near-simultaneous blasts Saturday night that ripped through a bus and two markets ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali, one of the year’s busiest shopping seasons.

Investigators reportedly raided dozens of small hotels across India’s capital looking for suspects, and police said “numerous” people were being questioned.

The attacks occurred as India and Pakistan were hashing out an unprecedented agreement to partially open their de facto border in Kashmir to speed relief to victims of a massive earthquake on Oct. 8.

The agreement was finalized early yesterday, and Indian officials appeared hesitant to put the blame for the bombings on Pakistan-based militants.

India’s accusations of Pakistani involvement in a 2001 attack on parliament put the two nuclear-armed rivals on the brink of a fourth war. But they pulled back and, after pursuing peace efforts since early last year, both appeared intent on keeping the atmosphere calm.

“We have lots of information, but it is not proper to disclose it yet,” Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil told clamoring journalists after an emergency meeting of the Cabinet. “The investigation is going well.”

A man called a news agency in Indian-controlled Kashmir to say that the Front for Islamic Uprising had staged the bombings, which also wounded 210.

The caller said the bombings were “meant as a rebuff to the claims of Indian security groups” that militants had been wiped out by security crackdowns and the earthquake.

New Delhi’s deputy police chief, Karnail Singh, said the group had been dormant since 1996. But he added that the group was linked to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, the most feared of the dozens of Kashmiri militant groups.

Lashkar and some other Kashmiri groups are known to have expertise in using the powerful explosive RDX, and a police officer with knowledge of the investigation said forensic analysts were studying whether RDX had been used in the attack.

He said witnesses reported that the biggest explosion created a huge ball of fire like that usually caused by RDX.

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