65 diamonds found in rubble from Mumbai blasts

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 18 2011 11:18 PM | Updated as of Jul 19 2011 07:19 AM

MUMBAI, India - Rescue workers and police have plucked 65 diamonds from the debris-strewn streets of Mumbai's precious stone hub that was targeted last week in deadly bomb blasts, an industry group said Monday.

Teams of workers made the discoveries while picking through rubble and panning muddy monsoon puddles in the Opera House area in the south of the city, one of three sites attacked on Wednesday in blasts that left 19 dead.

The area is a maze of narrow streets housing wholesale and retail diamond outlets where couriers are seen on most days darting between shops transporting merchandise.

"We have found 65 pieces," said Jayesh Labdhi, a committee member of the Mumbai Diamond Merchants' Association trade group.

"We will have a meeting... and they may be auctioned, which would help those who have been injured or lost their lives," he told AFP.

The diamonds, which are being kept with the association, have not yet been valued, Labdhi added.

Association's president Bharat Shah, however, said many traders were likely to try to trace property lost in the blasts by identifying recovered stones via their description, colour, clarity and purity.

Sanjay Kothari, the vice-chairman of the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said a decision had not been taken about auctioning the recovered diamonds but a meeting would be held in the coming days.

He said losses to traders due to the rush-hour blasts had been minimized because torrential rain had prompted many people to leave for home early, leaving fewer diamond couriers on the crowded streets.

"Three or four people from our association died and about 40 others were injured. There wasn't any looting, apart from one fellow who took a diamond from the ground. The police caught him and he handed it back," Shah added.

Trading at Opera House and the bustling Zaveri Bazaar gold and jewellery quarter nearby resumed fully on Monday after an enforced shut-down last week, as fearful customers and traders stayed away.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which also hit the commercial and residential district of Dadar and were the first in the city since the November 2008 Islamist militant attacks that killed 166.

Suspicion has fallen on the domestic Islamist group the Indian Mujahideen, which has said it was behind a string of bomb attacks across India in 2008, including in the capital New Delhi.

Police have said they are making headway and have "good leads" in the case.

Two suspected members of the Indian Mujahideen, wanted for questioning by police over blasts in the western city of Ahmedabad in 2008 and who were arrested in Mumbai earlier this month, are among those who have been quizzed.

Others include those with known links to the criminal underworld.

Detectives are said to be preparing a sketch of a suspect in the case, as they scramble for a breakthrough amid fears that the heavy rains that have lashed the city almost non-stop for a week may have washed away forensic clues.

Examinations of the sites have indicated that the bombs were detonated by timers and used ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer ingredient commonly used in improvised explosive devices.

Work is also on to identify anyone seen behaving suspiciously on hours of grainy security camera footage taken from the blast sites.