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Malegaon buries its dead
Sonia visits the injured as curfew is lifted

Malegaon, September 9
Investigators today sifted through evidence and followed up leads to trace those responsible for multiple bomb blasts that killed 31 persons and injured nearly 300 in this powerloom town, which remained peaceful as grieving kin buried the dead.

With no reports of untoward incidents, the authorities this morning lifted the curfew that was imposed soon after yesterday's explosions, and people in the predominantly Muslim town thronged mosques to offer prayers.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh visited the injured in hospital as well as the blast sites. Mrs Gandhi urged the people to maintain communal harmony, saying the attacks were aimed at "creating a divide in the society".

A 10-member special investigation team will work with police in Nasik and the Mumbai-based Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) to probe the blasts, said Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil. He also announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh for information leading to the attackers.

The authorities had yesterday put the death toll at 38, but Patil revised it to 31, saying the earlier figure had included persons killed in different incidents.

The burial of most of the dead, including 10 children, was completed by this morning but five bodies still remained unclaimed at hospitals, officials said.

Police and paramilitary forces, rushed to Malegaon after the blasts, kept a strict vigil at a large number of checkpoints and patrolled communally sensitive areas.

There was also anger among the kin of the dead, four of whom refused to accept the compensation of Rs 1 lakh provided by the state government, saying it was too little. At a press conference addressed by Sonia Gandhi, Shivraj Patil and Deshmukh, they complained the authorities were not doing enough to improve Malegaon's crumbling health infrastructure as the town had a Muslim-majority population.

Mrs Gandhi told the people their assumption was "wrong" and instructed Deshmukh to take steps to set up a new hospital.

Maharashtra Police chief P S Pasricha said the probe into the blasts was "proceeding on the correct path" but refused to give details. Some black powder found at the blast sites had been sent for forensic tests.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the next of the kin of the dead and declared the government's determination to deal sternly with those involved in such incidents. PTI

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