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60 killed in bombings in western India

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JAIPUR, India — Bombs ripped through crowded parts of this ancient city in western India on Tuesday, killing 60 people and wounding 150, police said.

The seven explosions in Jaipur took place in markets and several other areas of the city in Rajasthan, a region dotted with palaces and temples that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, said A.S. Gill, the state's police chief.

"Obviously, it's a terrorist plot," he told reporters. "The way it has been done, the attempt was to cause the maximum damage to human life."

He said bicycles may have been used in the bombings. But he did not say if the explosives were detonated by suicide bombers riding through the crowds or if the bombs had been planted on parked bicycles.

Another senior Rajasthan police officer, A.K. Jain, said 60 people were killed and 150 wounded.

Shortly after the bombings, which began just before 7:30 p.m., authorities put New Delhi, India's capital, and Mumbai, the country's financial center, on high alert along with several other cities.

Security was also stepped up at airports and railway stations across the country, said India's junior home minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal.

One of the blasts in Jaipur hit a market near a temple dedicated to the Hindu monkey god Hanuman, according to police. Tuesday is the day of worship set aside for Hanuman, and the temple was packed with people offering prayers on the way home from work.

The Press Trust of India news agency said another blast took place near the Johari Bazaar — the city's jewelry market, a popular tourist destination. The main tourist season, however, ended in March and there were no immediate indications that foreigners had been caught in the explosions.

Parikshit Bhandari, who saw the attack near the jewelry market, said there was "blood all around and wounded people crawling on the ground."

Television channels showed footage of mangled bicycles, damaged cars and overturned bicycle rickshaws, the most popular mode of transport in the crowded lanes of Jaipur.

A spate of bombings have plagued India since 2005. Last year, two explosions killed 43 people in the southern city of Hyderabad; seven bombings along Mumbai's commuter rail network killed nearly 200 people in 2006, and three New Delhi markets were bombed in 2005, killing 62 people.

There have also been a number of smaller explosions, and India has repeatedly blamed the attacks on Islamic militant groups backed by neighbor and rival Pakistan — accusations Islamabad denies.

Jaiswal, the junior home minister, suggested Tuesday's bombings were connected to previous explosions. "The blasts are part of a big conspiracy," he told reporters.

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh both condemned the attacks, as did U.S. Ambassador David Mulford.

"There can be no possible justification for murderous attacks on innocent people," Mulford said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Tuesday that "given the facts that we know now, quite clearly these bombs were intended to claim innocent life, and it's something that we very clearly condemn."