Three coordinated bombings tore through the heart of India's busy financial capital during the evening rush hour on Wednesday, killing at least 21 people and wounding 141 in the country's worst terrorist attack since the 2008 Mumbai siege.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts and appealed to the people of Mumbai "to remain calm and show a united face."
Thus far, no group has claimed responsibility for the bombings. Indian officials have refused to speculate on who might be behind the latest attack. Pakistan's government has sought to distance themselves from the bombings, expressing distress about the loss of lives and injuries from the blasts.
The bombings came just months after peace talks resumed between India and Pakistan. India has blamed Pakistan for previous terrorist attacks in the country, including the 2008 Mumbai siege which killed 166 people over three days.
Report: 3 Mumbai bombings minutes apart kill 21, wound 141 [Associated Press, 13 July 2011]
While no group has claimed responsibility for yesterday's bombings, some analysts say the pattern of the latest attack points to local militants referred to as the Indian Mujahideen (IM), made up of Indian Muslims. They have been active since 2007, and have been blamed for a string of recent bombing attacks in India.
However, many speculate Pakistan-based separatist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) may be the culprit, or may have supported the latest attack. The group was blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. LeT was once sponsored by Pakistan, and while the group was banned in 2002, many believe it still has ties to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
India has long been under the threat of militant attacks by a variety of groups, ranging from separatists in the northeast to Hindu nationalists and Islamists.
But the latest strike might be aimed specifically at harming attempts to revive the peace process between India and Pakistan.
Peace talks between the countries were suspended after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and resumed only recently. The two countries have a long-standing dispute over Kashmir, both claiming the region in its entirety. The current talks have made good progress. But an attack linked to Pakistan will almost certainly put pressure on India to pull out of talks and take a hardline stance.
Analysis: Q+A: Who could be behind the Mumbai blasts? [Reuters, 13 July 2011]
Pakistan is already smarting from the humiliation of a US special forces raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistani territory, who was living near a military garrison. It is widely speculated that bin Laden's present was known to at least some elements within ISI.
The Obama administration cut US$800 million in military aid to Pakistan last week, and Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen publicly accused Pakistan's government of sanctioning the killing of an investigative journalist.
In this context, it would be further damaging to Pakistan if the country is found to have any links to this latest terrorist attack in Mumbai.
Following the blasts, US President Barack Obama condemned the "outrageous attacks", pledging US support to India's efforts in apprehending the perpetrators. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also go ahead with plans to visit India next week, despite the bombings.'
America's strong show of support to India is potentially concerning for Pakistan, as it demonstrates how India may now be the foremost ally of the US in the region.
Pakistan’s ISI chief, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, is set to arrive in Washington later today for talks aimed at patching up frayed relations.
Report and Analysis: Enraged Indians blame Pakistan for lethal Mumbai bombings [The Globe and Mail, 13 July 2011]
Although the US and India have pressed Pakistan to clamp down on LeT and other militant groups, critics say Pakistan is still not doing enough.
The alleged masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai attacks are still at large, including veteran LeT chiefs and a major in the ISI.
Analysis: Mumbai blasts renew scrutiny of Pakistan's crackdown on militants [The Guardian, 13 July 2011]
Last evening's attacks occurred over the space of 11 minutes. According to police and newspaper reports, the first bomb went off at 6:54 pm, hidden in an umbrella in the Jhaveri Bazaar. A minute later, a bomb went off in a car at the business district of Opera House. At 7.05 pm, a third explosive device concealed in an electric meter at a bus stop went off in the Dadar neighbourhood.
Analysts say the bombings demonstrate Mumbai remains vulnerable, despite increased security since 2008. Over the years, India's commercial capital has witnessed much violence, from communal riots to gangland wars to terrorist operations.
Other cities in India have also faced recent terrorist attacks. In February 2010, terrorists bombed a tourist cafe in Pune. In October, gunmen opened fire on tourists in New Delhi shortly before the opening of the Commonwealth Games. In December, a bomb hit worshippers and tourists along the River Ganges in the holy city of Varanasi.
Analysis: Mumbai blasts: India's commercial capital has survived violence before [The Guardian, 13 July 2011]