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Blast Blamed on Terrorists Kill Dozens in New Delhi

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

We'll be checking in with editors around the country to gauge national reaction to the political woes of the White House, but first, there was a series of what appeared to be terrorist attacks today in the Indian capital New Delhi. More than 50 people were reported killed when three bombs went off. Two hit marketplaces that were packed with shoppers preparing for the biggest Hindu and Muslim festivals of the year. NPR's Philip Reeves is following the story from outside Jaipur, India. He joins me now.

Hi, Phil.

PHILIP REEVES reporting:

Hi.

ELLIOTT: Has there been any claim of responsibility? Do we know for sure that this was an act of political terrorism?

REEVES: So far there hasn't been, as far as we know, any claim of responsibility, so it's not absolutely clear if these attacks were politically motivated. That, obviously, though, is the suspicion. The prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, has described these as an act of terrorism. The issue now, I think, is going to be whether this leads to the finger of blame pointing in the direction of Pakistan-backed militants, and that, of course, could lead to strained relations between India and Pakistan.

ELLIOTT: Now a few years ago, the Indian parliament was bombed and Pakistani-backed militants were blamed. At that time, the tensions between India and Pakistan got so bad that people were actually talking about nuclear war, but relations have been better lately, haven't they?

REEVES: Yes, things have definitely, markedly improved since then. There is a peace process under way. More recently, of course, have been these efforts to try to cooperate over helping victims of the South Asia earthquake. It's interesting that Pakistan moved very quickly to condemn the bombings today, describing them as barbaric and expressing sympathy for the victims.

ELLIOTT: These attacks appear to have possibly been coordinated in that they happened in a very close time span, like some of the al-Qaeda-type bombings that we've seen in recent years. Is there any thought that this could possibly be the work of al-Qaeda?

REEVES: Well, they were attacks on civilians. They were calculated to strike at a time when a lot of people are around, and in that sense, all that resembles the tactics of al-Qaeda. It's important to remember, though, that the Islamist extremism of al-Qaeda hasn't particularly penetrated India's large Muslim minority in the same way as it has elsewhere. It's worth remembering that there are a number of violent militant groups operating in India, some of which are not connected to the issue of Kashmir. There are Maoist insurgents in the northeast, and in the past there have been attacks by Sikh separatist groups. So there is quite a large potential range of possible suspects. So much of what people are saying about why these attacks occurred and who was behind them is going to be in the speculative realm if only because there are so many possible explanations.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Philip Reeves. Thanks, Phil.

REEVES: You're welcome.

ELLIOTT: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Debbie Elliott
NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Philip Reeves
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.