June 2000 News

Spiritual godfather of Shia Muslims killed in IED blast

2 June 2000
The Daily Excelsior
Ahmed Ali Fayaz

Srinagar: Prominent mainstream political leader and a spiritual godfather of Shia Muslims, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, had a providential escape when 12 of his followres got killed and 30 others injured in a massive landmine blast that occurred at a 10,000-strong religious congregation at Gund Khwaja Qasim village near Pattan this evening. Ansari himself sustained minor splinter injuries.. Eye-witnesses told EXCELSIOR that the former Minister and president of Jammu and Kashmir Shia Association (JKSA), Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, had a providential escape as he had felt himself exposed to excessive sunshine and had shifted his chair to another spot, just 10 minutes before the massive explosion. As he was delivering his traditional surmon to a 10,000-strong gathering of Shia followers - on occasion of the death anniversary of Prophet Mohammad and Hazrat Imam Hassan - at a sprawling lawn, a defeaning blast occurred at 1610 hours. Dead bodies flung up in air, upto a distance of 200 ft, and most of those killed were identified with the help of identity cards and clothes recovered from the spot. Official sources confirmed that 12 dead bodies, torn into pieces were collected and removed to Police Station Magam, about 4 km from the spot while as 30 persons, including Ansari, were rushed to SKIMS and other hospitals. Some of the injured were initially treated at Sub District Hospital of Magam as dozens of ambulances poured in from Budgam, Beerwah and Pattan. Even as almost all of Ansari''s security guards and top JKSA functionaries escaped unhurt, his wireless operator - Sub Inspector Bashir Ahmed Gazi S-o Ghulam Mustafa Gazi of Zadibal - was blown into pieces. Others killed in the unprecedented explosion were identified as Proprietor of Hotel Shah Abbas Ghulam Hussain of Qamarwari, Khwaja Qasim S-o Ali Raza of Ghasiyaar Zadibal, Nisar Ahmed Rishi S-o Ghulam Rasool Rishi of Mirgund Pattan, Bashir Ahmed Joo S-o Ghulam Mohammad Joo of Khomeini Chowk Bemina, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Parray S-o Ghulam Ahmed Parray of Gagarpora Narbal, Ghulam Mohammad Hajam S-o Ali Mohammad Hajam of Nooripora Pattan and Ghulam Ahmed Wani alias Khoja Ama of Magam. Riyaz Ahmed of Gund Khwaja Qasim, who was present in the gathering, told EXCELSIOR that Ansari''s death would have been certain had he not shifted his position due to direct sunshine minutes before the blast. Saboteurs seemed to have meticulously planted the landmine in a pit under the shadows of a Chinar. Ansari sat on it for half-an-hour and later shifted the base. With the blast itself, there was a massive stampede as pieces of flesh and mutilated organs of dead bodies lay scattered upto a radius of 100 ft in all directions. Fragments of dead bodies were seen even on the folliage of trees around the venue. Ansari has been addressing his audiences on 28th Saffar every year at the same spot. Planting of a landmine and the major blast by militants is clearly an unpardonable security lapse as nobody seemed to have scanned the venue with metal detectors. With a number of personal security officers and escort personnel, Ansari has been in the Z-category of security since the eruption of militancy in Kashmir and sources in the Security Wing said that his category had not been changed after his expulsion as a Minister in December last year. Inspite of his bad reputation in politics, the 60-year-old Shia cleric is a man of reverence among his followers and one among the few mainstream politicians who have been boldly attacking Pakistan and militants for Kashmir''s destruction. IG Kashmir Ashok Bhan said that the VIP had not properly in- formed the Security Control Room about his programme of visiting the village and addressing a congregation there. He did not accept it as a security lapse with the argument that most of the protected persons do not abide by the security guidelines. The Director, Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr Mehraj-ud-Din said late this evening that the condition of Maulvi Iftikhar Ansari is stable and he has been admitted for observation. In a medical bulletin, Dr Mehraj-ud-Din said the Maulana was brought injured to the Institute at around 5 p.m. Though conscious, he was in pain. A team of doctors examined him and observed bruises at his back and nape of the neck. Otherwise, his condition is stable, the Director said. Ansari told ANI at Soura Hospital that the blast took place during his discourse at a religious congregation. He said he did not know what had happened after that but now he is feeling better. It was a providential escape for the Maulana going by the heavy casualties that took place around him. Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah alongwith Chief Secretary Ashok Jaitly visited the Institute to inquire about his condition. Abdullah talked to Ansari and prayed for his early recovery and other injured persons. Even as Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility, the blast triggered off massive resentment in Shia-dominated localities all over the Valley. According to the reports still pouring in, thousands of people came out on streets in Baramulla, Budgam and Srinagar districts and shouted slogans against the militant outfit and Pakistan. There was widespread condemnation mainly because of the fact that the explosion occurred at a religious ceremony. Mobs remained tense untill the authorities made them believe through Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan that Ansari was hale and hearty and he had sustained just two mild splinter injuries on his back. A bus-load of his followers were taken from Hassanabad to SKIMS and shown that the Maulvi was alright. It was only after a tough exercise by the officials that the agitated mobs pacified and returned to home. Demonstrations were reported from Ichhigam, Magam, Pattan and other localities as at several places people resorted to stone-pelting on the vehicular traffic. There was a sudden shutdown at Zadibal, Chhattabal, Hassanabad, Budgam, Magam and other places. Even as a number of vehicles were damaged, nobody was reported injured. Eyewitnesses said that immediately after the blast, angry people set on fire booths and kiosks set up at the religious function at Gund Khwana Qasim. DC Budgam Rohit Kansal, who visited the tense Magam, told EXCELSIOR that there were slogans only against Pakistan and there was no sectarian tension in the area. The blast is unprecedented in the sense that militants have never before chosen a religious function as the venue of their sabotage in Kashmir valley since 1990.


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