May 2000 News

J&K Minister, 4 others killed in blast

15 May 2000
Shujaat Bukhari

CHAMREN (Anantnag): The Jammu and Kashmir Minister of State for Power, Mr. Ghulam Hassan Bhat, and four others were killed in a powerful IED explosion near Mandipore in Anantnag district this morning. Two policemen were also injured in the blast. The pro- Pakistan militant outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, has claimed responsibility for the blast. According to witnesses, the 47-year-old Minister was proceeding to Srinagar in a convoy of five vehicles after spending the night at his house in Mandipore when the blast occurred around 9.55 a.m., 500 metres from his residence. As the first vehicle crossed the spot, a remote-controlled improvised explosive device (IED) was exploded by smashing the Minister''s car, which was immediately behind, to pieces. Mr. Bhat, his two personal security officers - Ghulam Qadir and Farooq Ahmed - driver, Raju Kumar, and a National Conference worker, Ghulam Mohammad Wani, were hurled into the air with such an impact that their bodies were found half a kilometre away. The explosion caused a 10-foot-deep crater. The remains of the Minister''s car were scattered all over the place. A police officer at the site confirmed that RDX was used in the IED placed in a water pipe under the road. Till late in the afternoon police personnel were seen collecting pieces of the bodies and stitching them together after identifying the dead by the clothes worn. Blood and pieces of flesh were seen strewn on the road which connects Anantnag''s Dooru area with the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. This is the first time a Minister has been targeted by militants. (According to PTI, the body of Mr. Bhat was laid to rest at his native village, Mundipora, some 80 km from Srinagar in south Kashmir.) Mr. Bhat, a law graduate from Aligarh Muslim University, was first elected to the State Assembly in 1996 and inducted into the Council of Ministers as Parliamentary Secretary in 1998 and later as Minister of State. Mr. Bhat''s killing has been widely condemned by people from all walks of life. Soon after news of the incident reached Srinagar, the Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, his Cabinet colleagues and senior police and civil officers rushed to Mandipore village. The Government declared a holiday and the national flag in all Government institutions was flown at half-mast. Dr. Abdullah, expressing shock, said, ''Those behind such barbaric and inhuman incidents do not want peace restored in the State. But our Army is ready to accept the challenge and will soon launch a major operation to flush out the militants.'' To a question he said, ''This is one example of trans-border terrorism aided and abetted by Pakistan.''


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