A little-known Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for Mumbai’s train bombings warned of more attacks Tuesday, as investigators questioned Muslim preachers in India’s remote northeast about the blasts.
The death toll in the July 11 attacks, meanwhile, rose to 207 from 182 when officials added people who died after being taken to hospitals in Thane, a town outside Bombay.
“All of them are blast victims,” said B.M. Raut, a disaster management official in the state government of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located.
While police are still trying to determine who carried out the well-coordinated attack, an outfit calling itself Lashkar-e-Qahhar said in an e-mail to a local television station that 16 people took part in the bombings in Mumbai and that one was killed.
But “all the remaining 15 ... are totally safe, and celebrating the success of this mission and also preparing for the next mission,” said the e-mail, written in poorly punctuated, often ungrammatical English.
“We also request all the Muslim brothers and sisters of India to (not) go near the main historical, governmental and the monumental places of India (especially in Delhi and Mumbai) in future,” the e-mail said. “Otherwise, they get hurt too.”
Indian police said they were investigating the veracity of the e-mail, provided to The Associated Press by Aaj Tak television.
Proof of responsibility?
In the e-mail, Lashkar-e-Qahhar said it would soon address doubts about its earlier claim of responsibility by providing audio and video proof.
The group had first said it was behind the Bombay bombings in an e-mail to Aaj Tak on Saturday.
“We are surprised, why some media groups and peoples are disclaiming our responsibility?” the e-mail said.
“Therefore it has become necessary for Lashkar-e-Qahhar to prove our claim,” it said. “Very soon, we will send you an audio/video tape regarding Mumbai blasts.”
Lashkar-e-Qahhar, or the Army of Terror, was unknown until it claimed responsibility for the March 7 bombings in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi that killed at least 20 people.
Investigators believe the group may be a front for Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan that has long fought Indian rule in Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim Himalayan region.
The e-mail was signed by a man calling himself Abu Mahaz, who identified himself as Lashkar’s spokesman and the head of its “media group.”
Investigators were also hunting for leads on the other side of India, in the northeastern state of Tripura, where they questioned two preachers from a legal Muslim organization called Tabliq-e-Jamaat over the train blasts, said Joint Commissioner of Police K.P. Raghuvanshi, who is leading the investigation into the attacks. He spoke from Mumbai.
The preachers have spent the past three weeks in Tripura, delivering sermons in remote villages along India’s porous border with Bangladesh. Authorities fear Muslim militants might be smuggling weapons and munitions into India.
Also Tuesday, India’s President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam traveled to Mumbai to pay respects to those killed in the train blasts.
Kalam laid a floral wreath at one blast site, the Mahim train station, and observed a moment of silence at 6:24 p.m. (1254 GMT), the time the first blast rocked the commercial and entertainment capital of India exactly a week ago.
Air, train and bus services and private cars also came to a halt in Bombay.