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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Terrorists Kill Dozens in New Delhi Market Blasts

NEW DELHI -- Investigators detained more than 20 people in raids on dozens of small hotels across the Indian capital Sunday as they hunted for suspects in a series of terrorist bombings that killed at least 59 people in two crowded markets, police said.

Police declared a state of emergency and closed all city markets after the Saturday evening blasts. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh denounced the apparently coordinated bombings, describing them as "dastardly acts of terrorism."

"These blasts have been timed to create disaffection during the festival season," he said in a brief television statement. "We shall defeat their nefarious designs and will not allow them to succeed. We are resolute in our commitment to fighting terrorism."

Singh held an emergency Cabinet meeting Sunday evening to discuss the attacks.

"We have lots of information, but it is not proper to disclose it yet," Home Minister Shivraj Patil told clamoring journalists after the meeting. "Our people are making good progress. The investigation is going well."

A man saying he represented the militant group "Islamic Inquilab Mahaz," or "Front for Islamic Uprising," took responsibility for the bombings in a call to the Kashmir News Service in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The little-known group is tied to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the most feared militant group in Kashmir, police said.

The caller, who identified himself as Ahmed Yaar Ghaznavi, said the attack "was meant as a rebuff to the claims of Indian security groups" that militant fighters had been wiped out by military crackdowns and the Oct. 8 South Asian earthquake.

Patil refused to comment on the claim, but a leading anti-terrorism expert said earlier that the timing and nature of the blasts appeared to indicate the work of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

"It looks like Lashkar. They are the most active group here," said Vikram Sood, the former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency.

Police said they were looking for a man in his 20s who refused to buy a ticket on a bus and got off in the Govindpuri neighborhood, leaving behind a large black bag. When some of the 40 passengers raised an alarm, the driver and bus conductor examined it and threw it out just as the blast occurred, injuring them both.

A police spokesman said 22 people had been detained following the hotel raids.

A police officer with knowledge of the investigations said forensic experts were probing whether the explosive RDX had been used in the attack, since witnesses said the biggest blast caused a huge ball of fire. Some militant groups in Kashmir are known to have expertise in using RDX.

The first explosion hit at 5:45 p.m. in New Delhi's main Paharganj market, killing 18 people and leaving behind bloodstained streets and mangled stalls of wood and twisted metal. Within minutes came an explosion at the popular Sarojini Nagar market, killing 43 people, and the bus blast in the Govindpuri neighborhood that injured nine.

Police said the three blasts killed at least 59 people and wounded 210, several seriously.

Delhi state's chief minister, Sheila Dixit, urged people to take precautions.

"Unless you do want to go shopping, please do not go to crowded areas. I am not saying there is a danger, but there could be a danger," she said.

On Sunday, many markets in New Delhi had few customers, an unusual scene in the run up to Diwali, northern India's most celebrated festival. The explosions erupted just hours after India and Pakistan began talks on opening their heavily militarized border in disputed Kashmir to help get food, shelter and medical aid to victims of the Himalayan region's quake, which killed about 80,000 people, most in Pakistan.

But despite the blasts, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said early Sunday that the two sides agreed to open the border at five spots beginning Nov. 7. Shipments of aid supplies will be allowed to cross at those points, and Kashmiri civilians will be allowed to cross on foot.

Pakistan condemned the multiple attacks in New Delhi.

"The attack in a crowded market place is a criminal act of terrorism. The people and government of Pakistan are shocked at this barbaric act and express deep sympathy with the families of the victims," a Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement said.

n Army divers searched Sunday for survivors and the dead in the cars of a train that derailed and plunged into a rain-swollen river in southern India, killing at least 110 people, officials said.

The accident occurred Saturday in the town of Veligonda after flash floods washed away a portion of the track. Scores of passengers remained trapped inside the railcars, five of which lay on their sides, partially submerged.