NEW DELHI, July 26: More than a dozen crude bombs exploded in different parts of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad on Saturday, killing at least 26 people, and the targets included a hospital where the injured were rushed, officials said.

The devices, masked as lunch boxes and placed on bicycles, injured more than a hundred weekend shoppers in crowded markets.

It was the third spate of attacks in three months in states ruled by the Hindu chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

TV channels quoted an email intercepted by the Intelligence Bureau, which was transmitted by an obscure group called Indian Mujahideen.

The latest attack in Gujarat was higher in intensity than the explosions in Karnataka on Friday that had spread panic through the high-tech city of Bangalore.

Two people were killed in that episode.

More than 60 people, mostly shoppers, were killed in May in Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan when a similar serial attack targeted busy markets. All three states are ruled by the BJP.

Even as security experts expressed fears about homegrown terror cells, one or two former sleuths saw a link with ISI. The Jaipur attack had brought reprisal against alleged illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Both countries were quick to condemn Saturday’s blasts.

“The Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani has strongly condemned the acts of terrorist violence in the Indian cities of Ahmedabad and Bangalore and expressed deep sympathies with the bereaved families and the victims of these dastardly acts of senseless violence against innocent persons,” said a statement released by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

In Dhaka, Foreign Adviser of the interim government, Mr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, said in a statement that all Bangladeshis condemned the bombing in the strongest terms. “These were acts of mindless terrorism, and such crimes never pay. Our sympathies are with the families of the bereaved and with the government and the people of India.”

The BJP’s national leader Lal Kishan Advani accused India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance of being soft on terrorism, a factor he said was responsible for the attacks.

BJP president Rajnath Singh said by not yet hanging death row convict Afzal Guru, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government had encouraged terrorists.

The Supreme Court had upheld Guru’s conviction for the plot to attack India’s parliament in December 2001.

The explosions in Gujarat occurred over a 50-minute span and targeted urban centres like Maninagar, Isanpur, Narol circle, Bapunagar, Hatkeshwar and Sarangpur bridge, Sarkej and Odhav, creating a wave of panic, according to local reports.

The explosion in the sensitive Sarkej area occurred in a CNG bus.

There were two blasts in Maninagar, assembly constituency of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The first blast occurred in this area at 6:45pm.

Officials said the entire state of Gujarat has been put on high alert following the serial blasts in Ahmedabad.

Security has been beefed up across the country, including Madhya Pradesh, another major BJP ruled state.

News channels quoted the email, supposedly sent by the Indian

Mujahideen group, as taunting the government to save the lives of the people in the next few minutes.

According to analysts the group first surfaced after a delayed verdict in the 1993 case of Mumbai violence saw a many Muslims given prison sentences but Shiv Sena rioters named in a government report went unpunished.

The name also figured in the context of the Jaipur blasts.

Indian President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts in Ahmedabad and appealed for calm.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi condemned the blast as dastardly act of cowardice.

She felt the attack was aimed at disturbing peace and harmony in the country.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil said it was a time to stand together and not blame each other.

“This is not a time when we should allow any one to create more terror or more difficulties,” he appealed.

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