India holds 4 over blasts in Hinduism's holy city

/ Source: The Associated Press

Police have detained four people for questioning in bombings that killed 20 people at a temple and train station in Hinduism’s holiest city, a top state official said Saturday.

Two of the men resembled police sketches of two suspects, said Alok Sinha, a top home ministry official in Uttar Pradesh state. The other two were their acquaintances, he said. All four were picked up in Uttar Pradesh on Friday night.

Residents alerted police when they spotted the men in Hardoi, a town some 200 miles southeast of New Delhi, Sinha told The Associated Press. “They are being questioned,” he said.

All four were from neighboring Bihar state, Sinha said.

On Friday, a senior police official said a Kashmiri militant killed by officers in northern India hours after Tuesday’s bombings was suspected of organizing the twin attacks in Varanasi, a city famed for its shrines on the banks of the Ganges River.

The slain man — identified only as Salim — ran the operations of the Kashmiri militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba in Uttar Pradesh, where Varanasi is located, said Yashpal Singh, the state’s top officer.

'Strong indications' point to Lashkar
A previously unknown Kashmiri group has claimed responsibility for the bombings. But Singh said there were “strong indications” the attack was the work of Lashkar, which is fighting to wrest predominantly Muslim Kashmir from largely Hindu India.

“The type of explosives used, the way the blasts were timed together, the place of the blasts — these are all hallmarks of Lashkar,” he said.

The group has been blamed for a number of attacks outside Kashmir, including Oct. 29 bombings at New Delhi markets and on a bus that killed 60 people days before a major Hindu festival.

If Lashkar was involved, it would bolster Indian complaints that Pakistan is doing little to control Kashmiri militant groups based in its territory.

More than 80 percent of India’s billion people are Hindu, while Muslims are the country’s largest religious minority. Relations between the two religions have been largely peaceful since the partition of the subcontinent at independence from Britain in 1947, when more than 1 million people were killed as overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan was carved from largely Hindu India.

But there have been sporadic bouts of savage violence, often sparked by attacks on temples or mosques.