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Indian police chase leads after mosque blasts kill 31

MUMBAI, India (AP) - Indian investigators on Sunday sifted clues in the western town of Malegaon in an effort to uncover the culprits behind deadly blasts that killed dozens of Muslim worshippers.

No one has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack, which killed at least 31 people and wounded more than 100 others as worshippers left afternoon prayer services at a mosque.

The four bombs that went off were crude devices with basic timers and did not "need a huge technical know-how" to construct, V.K. Dugal, a senior official in the Federal Home Ministry, told the NDTV news channel. He added the explosives were "fabricated locally."

Police were also tracking down the origin of two bicycles used to carry the bombs. "They were brand new, so they have been purchased locally," he said. Malegaon has long been the scene of violence between Hindus and Muslims, as have a number of other towns in Maharashtra state, where the city is located.

Malegaon is a city of about 500,000 people, 75 percent of them Muslim, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) northeast of Mumbai.

The city was calm Sunday as people returned to the streets, and businesses opened again as fears of riots receded.

"The most important thing at this juncture is to maintain communal harmony," Sonia Gandhi, the head of India's ruling Congress party, told reporters after visiting the blast site. "These terrorist acts were aimed at creating a divide in the society." The bombings occurred on a Muslim festival day when hundreds of people were crowded in and around the shrine. A series of terrorist bombings have ripped across India in the past year. The most recent was the July bombings of seven Mumbai commuter trains that killed more than 200 people. The attacks have been blamed on Pakistan-based Muslim militants. India's worst religious violence in recent years was in 2002, in western Gujarat state. More than 1,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed by Hindu mobs in revenge attacks after a train fire killed 60 Hindus returning from a religious pilgrimage. Muslims were blamed for the train fire.

 

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