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Dozens Dead in Indian Bombings

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Explosions have shaken New Delhi today and prompted a nationwide alert in India. The blasts went off in crowded marketplaces and are believed to have been coordinated. We do not know exactly how many people were killed or injured.

NPR's Philip Reeves joins us. Phil, thank you for being with us.

PHILIP REEVES reporting:

You're welcome.

WERTHEIMER: Phil, were these bombs that went off in New Delhi?

REEVES: Well, it's not clear at this stage whether they were bombs or not. The chief minister of Delhi has been quoted by one of the Indian news--24-hour news channels saying that this appears to be something that has been planned. She says that that is quite obvious. It's--she says that it's someone whose intentions are not good, but, she says, that it's too early to say who is behind it. The fact that there were three of these blasts in Delhi in quick succession does suggest that this is something more than a series of accidents.

WERTHEIMER: Do you have any sense of how many people might be dead because of these explosions?

REEVES: The chief fire officer in New Delhi has told Reuters that 39 people are feared killed, and there are reports that scores have been injured. But the figures, at this stage, are not concerted yet. There are other reports which cite a figure of around 20.

WERTHEIMER: Do I understand you to say that there is no claim of responsibility yet?

REEVES: There has been no reliable or concrete claim of responsibility. It's likely that suspicions will point in Delhi in the direction of Kashmiri separatists. It has for a while been rumored that the separatist movements, the militants in Kashmir, were very badly damaged by the earthquake that happened up there several weeks ago, and the speculation will be that this is an attempt to assert that they are still back in business and they're still capable of mounting attacks. But there has been no reliable claim of responsibility. I must emphasize that that is speculative. At this stage, we don't know whether they were--for sure whether they were bombs and, certainly, whether they were terrorist attacks or criminal. We just don't know at this stage.

WERTHEIMER: Next week India is set to celebrate two major religious festivals, Diwali, which is the biggest Hindu festival, and Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. This seems a particularly terrible time to introduce a national emergency.

REEVES: Yes, it is, indeed. Not least because these events have occurred on what would have been a very busy shopping weekend in Delhi. Lots of people go out to buy food for Diwali, which is due on Tuesday, and matters are complicated further by the fact that in the run-up to Diwali, which is known as the Festival of Lights, the citizens of Delhi tend to let off firecrackers in large numbers. Now these are very loud; they sound like flash grenades. And that will have added to the feeling of panic in the aftermath of these explosions, and, indeed, one explosion, which was initially reported as being part of this sequence, was later shown only to have been a firecracker that went off as people celebrate the run-up to Diwali. So it's a particularly difficult time in a city that is now extremely jittery.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's New Delhi correspondent Philip Reeves. Thanks very much, Phil.

REEVES: You're welcome. 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.

Linda Wertheimer
As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.
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.