Two sentenced to death for Mumbai bomb attacks

NEW DELHI: This file photo taken on May 21, 2007 shows accused Mumbai bombing mastermind Abu Salem (C-red shirt) being escorted by police at a railway station. — AFP

MUMBAI: An Indian court yesterday sentenced two men to death over bomb blasts in Mumbai two decades ago that killed more than 250 people. Firoz Abdul Rashid Khan and Tahir Merchant were convicted of conspiracy in the 1993 blasts and sentenced to death. “So far as the two death sentences are concerned, I am satisfied,” said special prosecutor Deepak Salve after the closed hearing.

A key figure in the attacks, Abu Salem, was sentenced to life imprisonment. India had to agree that Salem would not receive the death penalty when Salem was extradited from Portugal. Public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam announced life terms against Salem and Karimullah Khan, and a 10-year term against a fifth defendant. The sentences come after a special court in Mumbai convicted six men in June on a range of offences in the attacks. One accused, Mustafa Dossa, died of a heart attack shortly after the conviction.

The court acquitted a seventh man, Abdul Quayyum, for lack of evidence. The six were found guilty of involvement in coordinated bomb attacks on the Mumbai stock exchange, the headquarters of Air India and a shopping centre in March 1993 that killed 257 people and injured hundreds more. The attacks were believed to have been staged by Mumbai’s Muslim-dominated underworld in retaliation for anti-Muslim violence that had killed more than 1,000 people a few months earlier.
Salem went on the run after the 1993 attacks and was only extradited from Portugal in 2005 after India agreed he would not face the death penalty. Salem is a former associate of Dawood Ibrahim, India’s most wanted criminal, who allegedly masterminded the 1993 blasts. These are the final convictions in the long-running case that at its outset involved 189 defendants. One person has already been executed in the case.

Mumbai building fire kills 6
Meanwhile, six people died when a fire swept through a building in Mumbai, officials said yesterday, the latest housing tragedy to strike India’s bustling financial capital. An exploding gas cylinder sparked the blaze at the unfinished building used by laborers and their families. Eighteen people were hurt in the blast, local government official Tanaji Kamble said, twelve of them critically.

Mumbai police said they were investigating the incident, which came a week after a building collapse in the city killed 33 people. Building disasters are common in Mumbai, especially during the monsoon season from late June to September, when heavy rains lash the city, weakening poorly-built structures. Millions are forced to live in cramped, dilapidated properties because of spiraling real estate prices and a lack of housing for the poor. Activists say housing societies, private owners and builders often cut corners to save on costs. – AFP

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