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Mumbai blasts revive 7/7 memories in Britain

Experts are unanimous in their opinion that the blasts are the handiwork of Al-Qaeda or groups linked to it.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2006 12:14 IST

Four days after Britain solemnly observed the first anniversary of the July 7 blasts on the London underground, the trauma and terror of the day came alive once again as images of the Mumbai blasts resonated through television and newspapers here on Tuesday.

As Britons - particularly the people of London - connected and expressed solidarity with the people in Mumbai, experts were unanimous in their opinion that the blasts were the handiwork of Al-Qaeda or groups linked to it.

Corporate Britain followed the events in Mumbai closely throughout Tuesday. Mumbai is at the heart of trade between India and the UK worth $2.8 billion. Mumbai is the gateway to India for several British companies who have country offices in Mumbai.

British officials were in touch with the Indian high commission here to ascertain if there were any British citizens among the casualties, but until Tuesday evening there were no reports of British casualties.

The high commission, meanwhile, made arrangements to issue visas to British nationals of Indian origin keen to rush to Mumbai.

Many people of Indian origin here could not get through to their kin in Mumbai because telecommunication lines were reportedly down, particularly the mobile network.

Venkata Vemuri of Leicester got through to Mumbai late Tuesday evening and was relieved that his aunt was not affected.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was among the first western leaders to condemn the blasts. He said: "I condemn utterly these brutal and shameful attacks.

There can never be any justification for terrorism. We stand united with India, as the world's largest democracy, through our shared values and our shared determination to defeat terrorism in all its forms".

British experts suspected that groups that had drawn sustenance in Pakistan were responsible for the blasts.

Richard Watson, talking to BBC Newsnight, singled out Lashkar-e-Taiba and did not give much credence to the group's denial of any hand in the blasts.

Recalling that such groups drew on radicalism allegedly disseminated in the madrassas in Pakistan, Watson noted that this year a Coventry-based man, Mohammad Ajmal Khan, was convicted for providing funds to the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Noted academic Lord Meghnad Desai and MJ Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation said they had no doubts whatsoever that the blasts were the handiwork of Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammad. The blasts were part of a dark and sinister global agenda, they added.

Desai said: "This is an organised attack on India. It is attacked because it is a secular democracy with 135 million Muslims, which goes against the principles of Islamic fundamentalists".

He, however, added that groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba were no longer controlled or controllable by Pakistan. According to him, the groups act entirely on their own.

Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: "India has borne the brunt of religious terrorism for the last 50 years, although the West has only woken up to this blot on human society recently.

"We appeal to the UK government and other countries in the West to rally behind India in its fight against terror."

In Brussels, Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), strongly condemned the blasts, and said: "I hope that those responsible for these horrible acts of terrorism will be brought to justice."

There were no significant cancellations of holidays reported by travel agencies by Tuesday evening. Nearly 400,000 Britons visit India every year. Many of them travel to Goa and other places in India via Mumbai.

The blasts did not prompt the Foreign Office to revise its travel advisory to India or Mumbai, but it continued to caution British citizens travelling abroad of the dangers of terrorism across the globe.

The FCO's current advisory says: "There is a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks. Attacks can take place in public areas, including those frequented by foreigners. In recent years, there has been an increase in attacks specifically against "Western" targets, including embassies, hotels, bars and businesses.

"Despite the considerable military and law-enforcement successes against terrorist networks, the threat from terrorism persists. Attacks may include suicide operations, hijackings, bombings, kidnappings, shootings and attacks on commercial aircraft and shipping".