BOMBAY, India – India blamed Islamic militant groups Tuesday for twin car bombings in Bombay (search), the worst terrorist attack in a decade in the country's financial heart which killed 46 people and left 150 wounded.
The bombs planted in two taxis exploded minutes apart Monday, ripping through a crowded jewelry market, the Zaveri Bazaar, and in front of a colonial-era tourist attraction, the Gateway of India (search).
Police rounded up several people for interrogation, including the driver of one taxi that exploded at the Gateway of India.
At least five other explosions in Bombay in the last six months have been blamed on the pro-Pakistan Lashkar-e-Tayyaba group and its ally, the Students' Islamic Movement of India (search), a militant Muslim students' group outlawed in 2001.
"The people responsible before appear to be the people responsible now," Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani told reporters after visiting the site.
Lashkar-e-Tayyaba is one of more than a dozen Islamic rebel groups fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir since 1989, seeking independence for the Himalayan province or its merger with Muslim-dominated Pakistan.
Advani said Lashkar-e-Tayyaba's alleged involvement "raises doubts about our neighbor," an indirect reference to its rival, Pakistan. Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi also seemed to blame Pakistan.
"There are terrorists coming from outside," she told reporters.
India has often accused Pakistan of aiding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and of sponsoring cross-border terrorism, allegations Islamabad denies. Pakistan also banned the group last year.
Police Commissioner Ranjit Sharma also said investigators were focusing on the two groups.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
"I can say it is a terrorist group, but which group, we can't say," added Kripa Shankar, the home minister of Maharashtra state where Bombay is located.
Terrorist attacks in the past have triggered retaliatory sectarian violence, but the metropolis of 16 million people, India's largest, appeared calm as daybreak brought the usual hectic activity.
Office-goers crowded pedestrian crossings on their way to work. Schoolchildren were seen off by their parents. Worshippers thronged the popular Siddhi Vinayak temple as part of Hindu religious festivities that will climax Sunday to honor the elephant god Ganesh.
Bombay's stock market surged Tuesday to a 30-month closing high, wiping out Monday's losses as foreign funds and local investors shrugged off the terrorist threats. The Bombay Stock Exchange's 30-share Sensitive Index, or Sensex, ended 147.66 points, or 3.7 percent higher, at 4152.29 points. The Indian rupee strengthened against the dollar.
"In and of itself, the bombings have no impact on our outlook for India," said Kes Visuvalingam, Singapore-based director for Asian Equities at First State Investments.
The attack seemed aimed more at Bombay itself than any particular ethnic group.
In Zaveri Bazaar, many shops are owned by Hindus but many of its artisans are Muslims. The Gateway of India arch, a landmark built by British colonizers to mark a royal visit, is a popular lunchtime spot for both Muslims and Hindus.
Instead of arousing communal passions, they united Muslims and Hindus in their grief.
Women wailed as the body of 19-year-old tourist guide Krishna Thakur, wrapped in a white shroud and marigold flowers, was taken away for cremation.
A few miles away at a Muslim burial ground, mourners prayed as the bodies of Sadique Ahmad, 42, and his nephew, Mohammed Sohail Latif Wadiwala, 21, were lowered into separate graves.
"Even after the blasts, both Hindus and Muslims were together in the rescue," said Sohail Rokadia, a Muslim community leader and businessman. "If the aim was to create a distance between the two communities, the perpetrators have failed."
A group of 200 Muslims waving the national flag and peace banners marched in Bombay to condemn the attack.
The Indian Express newspaper said police are searching for five suspects, including two women who hired the taxi to go to the Gateway of India. They got out of the taxi, purportedly for lunch, leaving a bag inside. The driver also was strolling outside when the car blew up, the Express said. The driver of the second cab at the Zaveri Bazaar was killed.
The timing of the blasts raised concerns they were linked to a dispute over a religious site in the northern city of Ayodhya claimed by both Hindus and Muslims that has been the source of much bloodshed in the past, including 1992 riots in Bombay in which thousands were killed, mostly Muslims.
The bombings came hours after the release of a long-awaited archaeological report on the site that itself showed divisions over the site's history.
Bombay residents said the bombers seemed intent on triggering strife between India's two largest religious groups, and recalled the horror of the last large-scale attack in the city -- blasts in 1993 that killed more than 250.
Pakistan joined other nations in denouncing the bombing, and Advani acknowledged Pakistan's gesture.
"Though Pakistan has condemned the attacks, they should consider our demand to hand over 20 criminals. First they should do this," he said, referring to a list of suspected terrorists that India says are sheltered in Pakistan.
"Our issue is not limited to (Kashmir). We are seriously still worried about cross-border terrorism and that should be stopped," he said.