A court in India has sentenced to death a record 38 people for a deadly terror attack in the Indian city of Ahmedabad in 2008, in which up to 20 bombs were set off across the city in hospitals, shopping centres and parks, leaving 56 dead.
It was the first time so many accused have received death sentences in a single case in the country.
The sentence must be confirmed by a higher court. Judge AR Patel also sentenced 11 people to life imprisonment in the case.
Executions are relatively rare in India. The last people to be executed were the four accused in the notorious 2012 Delhi rape case, who were hanged in March 2020.
The convictions, handed down at a special court, were in connection to a terrorist attack in July 2008 in Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat, when as many as 20 bombs were set off across the city, including at several hospitals, in parks and on buses, killing 56 people and injuring more than 200.
The attacks occurred in two waves, with explosive devices hidden in lunchboxes and bicycles.
The first was near crowded busy shopping centres in Ahmedabad, and the second about 20 minutes later, in and around hospitals where casualties were being taken and people had gathered to give blood to the victims.
At the Civil hospital, 37 people lost their lives when a car laden with explosives drove into the compound.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, was the chief minister of Gujarat state at the time, the top elected official.
A previously unknown Islamist terror organization, the Indian Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the attack but Gujarat police said a nationwide network of radical Islamist groups were involved in the blasts.
The Indian Mujahadeen is believed to be a faction of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), a group of young extremists who had declared jihad against India.
Among those given death sentences on Friday was Safdar Nagori, the former Simi leader.
The state of Gujarat has a history of tensions and violence between Hindus and the minority Muslims.
The Indian Mujahideen said that the blasts were revenge for the 2002 Gujarat riots, which were triggered by a fire on a train packed with Hindu pilgrims that killed 60 passengers.
The cause was never proven, but Hindu extremists blamed the deaths of the pilgrims on Muslims and reacted by violently rampaging through Muslim areas over the course of three days.
Hindus and Muslims died, but the majority killed were Muslims. Modi was accused of condoning the violence and government officials and police were accused of helping Hindu groups target Muslim households.
The trial into the Ahmedabad blasts was concluded in September, more than 13 years after the first arrest was made.
Last week the judge convicted the accused of charges of murder, conspiracy to wage war against the state and illegal possession of arms. He acquitted 28 others for lack of evidence.