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Mumbai bleeds in bus blast replay

Mumbai, July 28: Three persons were killed and 33 wounded tonight in the second explosion on a bus in Ghatkopar in less than eight months.

The blast, in Mumbai’s northeast suburb, on bus number 340 was so powerful that its impact was felt 2 km away.

Windowpanes of buildings nearby were shattered and some reported damage to walls from the bomb, planted in the rear end of the bus. The bus was on its way from Andheri to Ghatkopar.

In a similar attack on December 2 last year, two persons died when a bomb went off on a public bus. Close to 30 people were injured then.

A senior police officer, who reached the site of today’s blast around 9.30 pm, said the casualty figure could mount.

Witnesses said many were injured in the stampede that followed as other buses halted and panicky passengers tried to scamper out. According to initial reports, there were explosions in two auto-rickshaws stationed near the bus. It is not yet known what caused those explosions.

This is the fifth time in as many months that Mumbai has been rocked by an incident of this nature. In an explosion on a local train on its way to Mulund on March 13, 12 persons, mostly ladies, had died and 71 were seriously injured.

Home minister Kripashanker Singh said it was too early to point a finger. But deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal made the startling statement that the blast appeared to have been triggered by a “fresh group”.

The administration has till now been maintaining that the earlier Ghatkopar and Mulund blasts were the handiwork of the same group — Simi activists working in tandem with the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

While more than a dozen alleged Simi members have been arrested and charged for the blasts, the police in March killed three Lashkar activists in an encounter at Goregaon.

The blast has shifted focus to another location — the Kumbh mela at Nashik — which is said to be on the hit list of militants. Around 60 lakh pilgrims from across the country are expected to visit the mela that begins on July 30.

Police sought to dispel fears, claiming adequate security arrangements. Nashik was cordoned off and put on high alert moments after today’s blast.

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