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Death toll in Mumbai attacks climbs to 200

The death toll from a series of bombs that struck Mumbai’s packed commuter trains rose Wednesday to 200, and India demanded that Pakistan dismantle the “infrastructure of terrorism,” but leveled no direct accusation at its rival for the attacks.

The number of dead in the eight near-simultaneous bombings during Tuesday evening’s rush hour in India’s financial hub has risen steadily as rescue efforts uncovered more bodies and people have succumbed to their injuries.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the bombings would not slow the country’s strong economic growth, and that Indians would stand united in the face of the attacks.

“This is not the first time that the enemies of our nation have tried to undermine our peace and prosperity,” he said in a televised address. “These elements have not yet understood that we Indians can stand united.”

“The wheels of our economy will move on,” he said. “We will win this war against terror.”

R. Patil, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra state told lawmakers that 200 bodies had been found in the twisted wreckage of the trains. Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra.

Officials say more than 700 people were wounded in the attack, stunning a city that embodies India’s global ambitions.

On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna repeated Indian demands that Pakistan crack down on the militants, who New Delhi says operate from Islamabad’s part of Kashmir.

“We would urge Pakistan to take urgent steps to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on the territory under its control and act resolutely against individuals and groups who are responsible for terrorists’ violence,” he said.

His comments followed remarks by Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmoud Kasuri, who said in a speech Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in Washington that solving the Kashmir issue “is the best way of tackling extremism in South Asia.” Sarna replied angrily to those comments.

“We find it appalling that Kasuri should seek to link this blatant and inhuman act of terrorism against men, women and children to the so-called lack of resolution of dispute between India and Pakistan,” Sarna told reporters.

Indian officials have been hesitant to blame Pakistan in the wake of the bombings, although many here suspect the attacks were the work of Kashmiri militants that New Delhi charges are trained, armed and funded by Islamabad. Pakistan insists it only offers the rebels diplomatic and moral support.

Meanwhile, a senior police official said investigators were looking into a possible link with Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a Kashmiri militant group that has denied playing a role in the bombings.

“It is difficult to say definitely as this stage, but Lashkar-e-Tayyaba can be involved going by the style of attack,” said P.S. Pasricha, the director general of police for Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located.

Lashkar has, in the past, employed near-simultaneous explosions to attack Indian cities. But other Indian officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was just getting under way, cautioned that it was too early to accuse a specific group.

Pakistan has harshly condemned the bombings, but analysts said a Kashmiri link could slow — or even derail — the peace process between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Tuesday’s attacks drew condemnation from around the world, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said “terrorists” were behind the bombings, which he called “shocking and cowardly.”

With the annual monsoon leaving the Indian port city of 16 million overcast and damp Wednesday, police picked through the mangled train cars, placing evidence in blue plastic bags and shooing away curious onlookers.

“We are just trying to establish what kind of explosives were used and where exactly the bombs were placed but it appears they were kept in the luggage racks,” said police inspector Yeshwant Patil, searching a wrecked train car.

Pasricha dismissed Indian media reports that the powerful explosive RDX was used in the blast, saying investigators were awaiting the results of forensic tests.

Governments around the world tightened security after the blasts. Commuter transit systems have been tempting targets for terrorists in recent years, with bombers killing 191 in Madrid, Spain, in 2004, and 52 in London last year.

Mumbai also suffered blasts in 1993 that included the Mumbai Stock Exchange, killing more than 250 people.

Pasricha said that in recent months authorities had become aware Mumbai could be targeted.

“We had an idea since some months that Mumbai was a target,” he told reporters. “Since it is the financial capital, there are many vulnerable areas in the city. Targets are well-known.”

He described the bombings in India’s commercial capital an attempt to undermine its future.

“The country is on the path to progress,” Pasricha said. The attackers wanted to stoke fear and “stop investments.”

But analysts said the blasts were unlikely to hurt investor confidence, and the stock market rose a surprising 3 percent Wednesday — boosted by strong earnings results from Infosys Technologies, a major software company.

Commuters, meanwhile, returned to the trains, although there was less of a crush on the network that serves some 6 million people a day, making it one of the world’s most crowded.

“Our trust in Mumbai has been shattered, we had always thought trains were safe. But what can we do? In this city trains are the lifeline,” said Brijesh Ojha, 35, who boarded a train at Bandra station, where the first blast occurred. “They can’t scare us this way.”

Worried residents searched for missing friends and relatives. Dozens of people stood in hospitals, carrying pictures of the missing. It was unclear how many people were missing, though it appeared to be at least a few dozen.

“We have gone to four hospitals, he would have called by now,” sobbed Shakuntala Wari who was looking for her 24-year-old son, Vikas, at the Bhabha hospital near Bandra.

She had also visited a morgue. “I’m just very scared what happened to him,” she said.

Others crowded around hospital notice boards, poring over lists of the dead and wounded posted by police. Many remained unidentified by Wednesday afternoon.

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