Curfew in historic Indian city a day after blasts

JAIPUR, India Wed May 14, 2008 12:25pm EDT

1 of 24. A man cries after a relative was killed, in Titkumar village 83 miles south from the eastern Indian city of Kolkata May 14, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jayanta Shaw

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JAIPUR, India (Reuters) - Authorities imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew in parts of India's historic western city of Jaipur on Wednesday, a day after eight bombs ripped through bustling streets, killing 61 people and injuring 216.

The blasts within minutes of each other brought fears that Pakistani or Bangladeshi Islamist militant groups were trying to undermine a fragile peace process between India and Pakistan. But police have not yet blamed any particular group.

Bombs, many strapped to bicycles, exploded by a main temple and markets inside the pink-walled city. Slippers, broken pieces of glass and bits of clothes littered the main market place.

Towards sunset, as the curfew ended, curious residents drifted towards the blast sites to quietly stare at the rubble and mangled vehicles still lying around a day later. A handful of shops reopened for business.

"It was very scary and most of us just ran as there was smoke and cries for help in every direction," said Anil Saxena, a businessman at a popular jewellery market.

Authorities cleaned a blood-splattered street in front of Hawa Mahal, or the "palace of wind", a five-storied sandstone building built by a Hindu king for his queen in 1799 AD.

Officials said they still did not know which group was responsible for the bombings.

"We have detained two to three persons for questioning," Vasundhara Raje, chief minister of Rajasthan state, told reporters on Wednesday. "We have got slender leads, but not a definite lead in the case."

Police said another curfew would be imposed between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Thursday.

On Wednesday evening, police released a sketch of a man in his mid-20s suspected of being involved in the bombings. Witnesses who helped prepare the sketch told police that the man was seen near the scene of one the bombings and spoke Bengali.

A.S. Gill, Rajasthan's police chief, told Reuters that 61 people has died in the bombings.

Many Hindus offer prayers in temples on Tuesdays and officials say that was probably what attackers were looking for.

"There were hundreds of people there like me to offer prayers. I wonder what would have happened had the blast taken place inside the temple," Vikram Singh, an injured college student, said from his hospital bed.

"FOREIGN HAND"

India's junior home minister Sriprakash Jaiswal was quoted by local media as saying there "might be the involvement of some foreign hand in the blasts" -- a phrase often used in India to refer to Pakistan.

Only in the past week, Indian soldiers came under heavy cross-border fire trying to stop armed men from sneaking into its part of Kashmir. Later, eight people were killed in clashes in a village in some of the worse violence in Kashmir this year.

India accused Pakistan of violating a truce by firing across the border again on Tuesday. Pakistan denied it.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee is due to visit Islamabad next week to review a four-year-old peace process, and Pakistan quickly condemned the blasts.

India said it had no information of foreigners injured in the blast. It is low season in the tourist state of Rajasthan.

Inside Jaipur's main hospital, women and children writhed in pain as doctors bandaged their heads or badly injured arms.

Others thronged the mortuary at the back of the hospital to try to get bodies of their relatives out as quickly as possible.

"This is an endless wait. I don't know when I can get my brother's body out of here," Rakesh Sharma, a businessman, said.

In the past few years, bomb blasts in Indian cities have killed hundreds of people. The deadliest was in July 2006, when seven bombs on Mumbai railways killed more than 180 people.

In August three bombs killed 38 people at an amusement park and a street-side food stall in Hyderabad in southern India.

(Editing by Jonathan Allen and Richard Meares)

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