JAIPUR, India, May 13 (Reuters) - Seven bombs ripped through the crowded streets of India’s western city of Jaipur on Tuesday evening, killing around 60 people in markets and outside Hindu temples.
The bombs, many strapped to bicycles, exploded within minutes of each other in Jaipur’s pink walled city, a magnet for foreign tourists.
It was the deadliest bomb attack in India in nearly two years. Around 150 people were wounded and local television stations broadcast appeals for blood donations.
Police officers said no group had admitted responsibility for the blasts. Television channels quoted government and intelligence officials as blaming Pakistani or Bangladeshi Islamist militant groups.
“According to the information I have received 60 people have died and 150 have been injured,” Rajasthan’s Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying.
The state’s home minister, Gulab Chand Kataria, said there were at least 55 deaths.
“At around 7.30 there was a big noise and suddenly I found people in a pool of blood,” said Govind Sharma, a priest at a Hindu temple, through tears. “I’ve lost my father in the bomb blast.”
Officials said the apparent motive for the bombs was to undermine a peace process between India and Pakistan or foment communal violence in India.
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee is due to visit Islamabad in just over a week to review the four-year-old peace process, his first since a new, civilian government took over in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm. The British and U.S. governments said there could be no justification for killing innocent people.
At the main government hospital in Jaipur, more than 100 people crowded around the doors of the emergency ward, many screaming for information about their relatives. Police officers at the doors yelled for people to give blood.
“I’ve come here to locate my son,” said Shabnam Bano, in tears. “He had gone to the bazaar but has not returned.”
Inside the ward, cleaners frantically tried to mop up blood that had pooled in the main corridors.
Police and state government officials say some or all of the bombs were left on bicycles and detonated using timers. An eighth bomb was defused by police.
Officials said they were not aware of any foreigners being killed.
Two bombs were planted near Hindu temples, where large crowds gather every Tuesday in honour of the monkey god Hanuman.
“It was obviously a terror attack,” A.S. Gill, Director General of Police in the state of Rajasthan, told reporters close to the scene of one of the blasts.
The blasts come just a few days after fresh firing along the border between India and Pakistan in disputed Kashmir. India said Islamist militants had been trying to sneak in.
“There could be a conspiracy behind this,” Shriprakash Jaiswal, India’s junior home minister, was quoted by television stations as saying. He did not blame any one group or country.
Alerts were issued in the Indian capital New Delhi and the financial capital of Mumbai.
In the past few years a string of bomb blasts in Indian cities have killed hundreds of people. The deadliest was in July 2006, when seven bombs exploded on Mumbai’s railway system killing more than 180 people.
Last August, three bombs killed 38 people at an amusement park and a street-side food stall in Hyderabad, a city in southern India which is home to a booming outsourcing industry.
Cinemas, markets and places of worship have also been targeted in recent years. (Writing by Simon Denyer; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Robert Woodward)