January 2000 News

Srinagar blast kills 17

3 January 2000
The Pioneer
Rashid Ahmad

SRINAGAR: Amid growing fears of rise in violent activities after the Kandhar trade-off, militants struck in a big way on Monday morning, triggering a devastating explosion in which 17 persons were killed and 30 injured.

Three security men were also killed in the blast in the busy market at Batamaloo quarter here.

At lest two vehicles of security forces, six load carriers and more than 20 vegetable kiosks and other shops were destroyed in the frightening blast that rocked the entire uptown area.

A report from Jammu said a major disaster was averted there with the recovery of two 107-mm Chinese-made artillery shells from a city locality on Monday.

The solar-ignition shells capable of destroying big structures were recovered on specific information during patrolling by a police party in the Niki Tawi area of the city along the embankment of the river Tawi, Inspector-General of Police (Jammu Zone) R. V. Raju told reporters.

The devices take just five minutes to ignite and have the devastating capability of destroying high buildings and installations, he said. Each shell, he said, had six-seven kg of high explosive material and could strike within a range of seven to ten km. Such devices were found also during 1994-95 in R S Pura area, he added. One of the shells recovered on Monday was directed towards the MAM stadium and the other towards Goal Gujral camp. The target of the latter might have been a religious procession at the camp organised on the occasion of Guruparab celebration, he said.

The shells could have also been used by "the enemy" during the forthcoming Republic Day celebrations at the stadium, the IGP said.

In Srinagar, around 10.30 am, when a large number of people had assembled at local vegetable market opposite Tatoo Ground cantonment outside Batamaloo, a powerful IED exploded with a horrifying bang. The BSF and SSB members were in the market purchasing vegetables. Several vehicles, including that of security forces, were parked in the extremely crowded area.

At least 14 persons, including a BSF man and two SSB personnel, were killed on spot and 35 others sustained splinter injuries of whom three later succumbed to their injuries in the hospital. The condition of five wounded persons was stated to be critical.

No militant group has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion, which was heard over a radius of more than seven km.

Pieces of flesh of the hapless victims were found scattered amidst the strewn blood stained vegetables all over the devastated market. Many people, in hurry for safety, left behind their bags and other belongings, which too were lying all around.

Securitymen who were busy buying vegetables reportedly opened fire after they saw three of their colleagues falling prey to the splinters. This added to the commotion and confusion.

The area was immediately cordoned off by the reinforced troops to nab the persons responsible for the explosion.

Senior police and civil authorities also immediately rushed to the scene to take stock of the situation.

The blast follows last week's two other major militants activities. First, they hijacked an IA plane and kept its crew and passengers hostages at Kandhar airport for about eight days. The hijacking drama ended only after Government freed three top militant leaders. In the second incident, a suicidal squad of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen stormed the headquarters of Special Operation Group of Jammu and Kashmir police, killing more than a dozen members of force, including a DSP. The SOG also lost its headquarters and arms depot in the militant action.


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