BOMBAY, India_Eight bombs exploded in first-class compartments of packed Bombay commuter trains Tuesday, killing 147 people and wounding hundreds in a well-coordinated terror attack on the heart of a city that embodies India's global ambitions.
Suspicion quickly fell on Kashmiri militants who have repeatedly carried out nearly simultaneous explosions in attacks on Indian cities, including bombings last year at three markets in New Delhi.
Pakistan, India's rival over the disputed territory of Kashmir, quickly condemned Tuesday's bombings. Even so, India alleges that Pakistan supports the Muslim militants, and analysts said a Kashmiri link to the blasts could slow - or perhaps even derail - a peace process that has gained momentum between the nuclear rivals over the past several years.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said "terrorists" were behind the attacks, which he called "shocking and cowardly attempts to spread a feeling of fear and terror among our citizens."
Security was tightened in cities around the world from New Delhi to New York after the eight blasts, which struck seven trains within minutes of each other during the early evening rush hour. The bombings appeared timed to inflict maximum carnage in this bustling Arabian Sea port of 16 million, more than 6 million of whom ride the crowded rail network daily.
Emergency crews struggled to treat survivors and recover the dead in the wreckage during monsoon downpours, and the effort stretched into the night. Survivors clutched bandages to their heads and faces, and some frantically tried to use their cell phones. Luggage and debris were spattered with blood.
The mobile phone network collapsed, adding to the sense of panic across the city. With train services down until midnight, thousands of people were stranded without any way of reaching their families.
There was no immediate indication if suicide bombers were involved. Police inspector Ramesh Sawant said most of the victims suffered head and chest injuries, leading authorities to believe the bombs were placed in overhead luggage racks.
The Press Trust of India, citing railway officials, said all the blasts hit first-class cars - a sign the assailants were targeting the professional class in a city that has come to embody India's 21st century ambitions.
Bombay, also known as Mumbai, is the center of India's booming financial industry and the home of Bollywood, a city that presents itself to the world as a cosmopolitan metropolis where bankers dine with movie stars and fashion models party until dawn.
While that image captures one side of life in the city, Bombay is also crowded and largely poor. And across the city, the prosperous and downtrodden worked together to aid survivors.
As police and rescue services struggled to reach the blast scenes through Bombay's jammed, chaotic everyday traffic, bystanders pulled the wounded from the debris, offering them water and bundling them into every available vehicle - from trucks to three-wheeled auto-rickshaws.
Others wrapped bodies in railway blankets and carried them away. Police collected body parts in white plastic bags streaked with blood and rain.
Those survivors who could walked from the stations to hospitals.
There, they found scenes of chaos and carnage.
Doctors and volunteers wheeled in the wounded and dead, one after the other.
"I can't hear anything," said Shailesh Mhate, a man in his 20s, sitting on the floor of Veena Desai Hospital surrounded by bloody cotton swabs. "People around me didn't survive. I don't know how I did."
Another man, bloody bandages over his eyes, held out a phone to a nurse, begging her to call his wife and tell her he was OK.
The first bombing hit a train at Bandra station at 6:20 p.m. The blasts followed down the line of the Western Railway at or near stations at Khar, Jogeshwari, Mahim, Mira Road, Matunga and finally Borivili, which was struck by two blasts at 6:35 p.m., according to the Star News channel. However, other reports gave different timelines.