NEW DELHI – A little-known group that police say has ties to Kashmir’s most feared militants claimed responsibility Sunday for a series of terrorist bombings that killed 59 people in New Delhi.
Authorities said they already had gathered useful clues about the near-simultaneous blasts Saturday night that ripped through a bus and two markets crowded ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali, one of the year’s busiest shopping seasons.
The attacks came at particularly sensitive time as India and Pakistan were hashing out an unprecedented agreement to partially open the heavily militarized frontier that divides the disputed territory of Kashmir to speed relief to victims of a massive earthquake earlier this month.
The agreement was finalized early Sunday, and Indian officials appeared hesitant to quickly put the blame for the bombings on Pakistan-based militants, unlike in previous terror attacks during a 16-year-old insurgency by Islamic separatists in India’s part of Kashmir.
A man called a local news agency in Indian Kashmir to say the militant Islamic Inquilab Mahaz, or Front for Islamic Uprising, staged the bombings, which police said killed 59 people and wounded 210.
The caller, who identified himself as Ahmed Yaar Ghaznavi, said the bombings were “meant as a rebuff to the claims of Indian security groups” that militants had been wiped out by security crackdowns and the Oct. 8 earthquake that devastated the insurgents’ heartland in the mountains of Kashmir.
A senior police officer said the caller’s name was not familiar to intelligence agencies, and New Delhi’s deputy police chief, Karnail Singh, said the group had not been very active since 1996.