AHMADABAD, India – Three bombs exploded minutes apart Wednesday in this city in western India, wounding at least 36 people, officials said.
Ahmadabad's police commissioner said the blasts were an attempt to set off a new round of religious riots in the western state of Gujarat. Nearly 1,000 people, most Muslims, have died in Hindu-Muslim clashes over the last three months, the worst religious violence in India in a decade.
Officers at the state police control room said a bomb exploded in the busy market area of the Gurukul neighborhood of Ahmadabad, the commercial hub of Gujarat state. The area is predominantly Hindu.
Five minutes later, another blast was reported on a bus near a large bus terminal in the Geetamandir neighborhood, a mixed Hindu-Muslim community.
A few minutes later, a bomb exploded on a bus in Vasana suburb, also a mixed Hindu-Muslim neighborhood.
The bombs caused panic around the busy commercial city, which is still recovering from widespread rioting in which Hindu nationalists attacked and killed Muslims. Thousands of Muslim homes and businesses were destroyed and some 100,000 Muslims are living in squalid relief camps.
Police officials said that in the Vasana case, a man came to the window of a passenger seat with a tin lunch box and asked the passenger to hand it to the driver. The box exploded seconds after the passenger obliged.
Police Commissioner K.R. Kaushik said two other pipe bombs set by timers in tin lunch boxes were discovered on buses and defused by police.
Three police officers were injured when another lunch box stuffed with explosives blew up while they were trying to defuse it.
Police and hospital officials said at least 36 people were being treated for injuries, some of them in critical condition.
"This is an obvious attempt by some frustrated elements to disrupt peace in the city," Kaushik said.
The blasts come a day after 11 Hindus who allegedly joined mobs that burned 92 Muslims to death were arrested and charged with murder.
They included three leaders of a Hindu nationalist group, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliate of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's governing Bharatiya Janata Party.
Violence in Gujarat began when a Muslim crowd burned a train car on Feb. 27, killing 60 Hindus and setting off reprisals by Hindu mobs. The official death toll since the fighting began is nearly 1,000, but human rights groups and Western diplomats put the number at 2,000 to 3,000. Most of those killed have been Muslims.
Nearly 3,200 Hindus have been arrested on charges ranging from rioting and arson to murder, a capital offense. Nearly 800 Muslims have been arrested on rioting charges.
Sixty-two Muslims have been charged with murder in connection with the train attack.
Human rights groups have accused the state government of condoning Hindu reprisal killings and of siding with the Hindus. Photographers have reported seeing police aiming at Muslims when they fired shots to disperse crowds.