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India boosts security after blasts

One of the blasts occured at a parking lot near the Gateway to India monument during lunchtime.
One of the blasts occured at a parking lot near the Gateway to India monument during lunchtime.

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CNN's Ram Ramgopal reports on the aftermath of the twin car bombing at Mumbai's Gateway to India (August 25)
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The death toll is rising in Mumbai after a pair of bomb blasts rocked India's financial capital.
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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India is beefing up security in major cities amid fears of a violent backlash to Monday's deadly bombings in Mumbai which killed at least 44 people.

While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts, the Indian government has said the attacks bore the "hallmarks of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Taiba."

Police in Mumbai, New Delhi and several major states are tightening security -- especially around temples, mosques and public areas -- and stepping up spot identity checks following the bombings.

"We have increased the number of pickets around religious places," New Delhi police spokesman Ravi Pawar told Reuters.

"Patrolling in markets and crowded areas has been intensified and posters and leaflets are being put up educating the public to be careful about suspicious packages."

The Indian government must tread carefully, however, for fear the Mumbai bombings could spark a new wave of religious violence, particularly between Hindus and Muslims.

Police put the death toll at 44, but hospital officials said 48 had died. At least 153 people were wounded, according to hospital officials.

Hours later, nine mine detonators were found on a railway track on a major line 85 kilometers (about 50 miles) north of Mumbai at Kafara, said Chhagan Bhujbal, provincial home minister.

The detonators were planted on a line to the city of Nashik, where a major Hindu festival is under way through Wednesday.

Provincial officials said they had no suspects and there was no claim of responsibility for planting the detonators.

Both Monday's bombs were inside the trunks of taxi cabs, police said. One of the bombs blew up near the colonial-era Gateway to India monument. The second bomb went off close to the Hindu Temple of Mumbadevi.

Police said they had received several leads from the driver of one of the taxis who, they said, was apparently working in league with his passenger, who was carrying a bomb.

India shut down the SIMI on September 28, 2001, just shortly after the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, accusing it of being linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network.

The offices of the group were padlocked and its leaders were taken into custody by Indian authorities.

Lashkar-e-Toiba, or the Army of the Pure, has been accused by India of carrying out terror attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir. India has accused Pakistan of backing the group, a charge Pakistan denies.

In Islamabad, Pakistan, a Pakistani government spokesman condemned the bombings.

"We condemn all acts of terrorism and I think such wanton targeting of civilians should be condemned in the strongest possible terms," said spokesman Masood Khan, speaking at a regular news briefing. (Full story)

The Mumbai Exchange's top-30 share index, India's most-widely tracked equity gauge, ended 2.92 percent down. (Stocks slide)

Security forces in the city have been on high alert because of a series of bomb explosions across the Mumbai metropolitan area over the past several months.

The most recent bus bombing took place on July 29, killing four people on board a packed commuter bus in the commercial heart of the city.

Monday's blasts were the worst in Mumbai -- India's financial capital --since 1993, when a series of bombs killed at least 260.

The 1993 blasts were blamed on underworld gangs seeking to avenge Muslim deaths during Hindu-Muslim riots following the destruction of a mosque in the holy city of Ayodhya in northern India by a Hindu mob. (History of violence)

Monday's explosions follow the release of an archeological report into the mosque site. Hindus claim the Islamic mosque was built on a holy Hindu site. But Muslims dispute this and claim the site themselves.

Details from the highly anticipated report emerged on Monday, saying that experts found that an ancient structure did in fact exist on the disputed site but there was fierce disagreement about whether it was a Hindu temple. (Full story)

Police in Mumbai have initially ruled out a link between the explosions and the report.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Colin Powell had telephoned Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh to discuss the bombings.

Mumbai, a city of more than 10 million people is home to India's financial and film industries. Until recent years, it was known as Bombay.

-- CNN Correspondents Suhasini Haider and Ram Ramgopol contributed to this report

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