India marks Hindu festival of lights and mourns victims of weekend bombings

Defiant celebrations were tinged with mourning Tuesday as India's capital marked the Hindu festival of lights in the shadow of the weekend bombings that tore through two crowded markets. With thousands of police providing a strong show of force on the streets and security guards frisking worshippers at temples, a senior official said the hunt for the attackers was progressing even as a militant group widely believed to have been behind the blasts denied any involvement.

The Pakistani-based group, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, called accusations of its involvement "completely baseless and false."

The group's spokesman, who identified himself as Abu Huzaifa, said Lashkar, which is active in India's part of the divided Kashmir, does not target civilians, "especially women and children."

Indian officials have not directly accused Lashkar of staging the attacks. But they have said that a little-known Kashmiri group, Islamic Inquilab Mahaz, which took credit for the blasts, has ties to Lashkar.

The bombs tore through two markets packed with shoppers Saturday, killing 59 people, and the festival of lights, Diwali, was celebrated with mixed emotions in India's capital.

Shopkeepers decorated their stalls with orange flowers, glowing lights and shiny tinsel and proudly laid sweets, nuts and dried fruit out on the sidewalks. Loud staccato bursts of firecrackers provided a constant background noise, the AP reports.

At the anointed hour, dozens of people at Sarojini Market, where 43 people were killed, lit candles at the scene of the blast.

But despite the calls for defiance and the shopkeepers' best efforts, many people stayed away Tuesday from markets that would have normally been crowded with shoppers buying last minute gifts or firecrackers.


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