December 2000 News

Blast outside Srinagar Corps HQ, 9 dead

25 December 2000
The Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

Srinagar: A CAR bomb exploded outside the Army''s 15 Corps headquarters in Batwara in Srinagar on Monday afternoon, leaving at least nine persons - four of them soldiers - dead and 20 wounded. Today was the 29th day of the Ramzan ceasefire. The explosives were concealed in a white Maruti car bearing a Delhi registration number (DL 5C 5889) plate. It was parked near the main gate of Badami Bagh cantonment, a highly fortified area. The flames from the explosion spread to Batwara Bazar shops in the vicinity. Such was the intensity of the explosion, a passing vehicle was reduced to mangled mess: three of its passengers were killed on the spot and two died a little later. Four soldiers are believed to have also died on the spot, though a 15 Corps spokesman said denied this, saying only seven personnel were injured. The pro-Pakistan Jamait-ul-Mujahadeen - which is against the cease-fire - has claimed responsibility for the dastardly act. A person identifying himself as a JuM spokesman told reporters on telephone that attacks similar to today''s are being planned. Though the Army identified the source of the explosion as the car parked outside the main gate, it is unclear how soldiers were killed or wounded: the nearest guard position is significantly far from the scene of the crime. The spot where the explosion took place is on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway between Badami Bagh and Batwara Bazar. The police say the car used for the explosion belonged to Rajouri Kadal-resident Syed Mujataba. A couple of hours before the crime, four persons took possession of Mujataba''s car at gun point. He was blindfolded and kept captive. His captors released him around 7 pm. Today''s attack was similar to the one on April 19 when a car-borne suicide bomber blew himself and his car up outside Batwara gate. He was an activist of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group founded by Masood Azhar, one of the three militants released in exchange for the freedom of IC-814 that was hijacked last December. On November 3 last year, nine armymen, including defence PRO Major Purshottam, were killed in a suicide attack by Lashkar-e-Tayyeba militants. Today''s attack comes barely 24 hours after the Army held mock exercises to deal with such situations. Reacting to the blast, Defence Minister George Fernandes said Pakistan had not relented in any way in aiding and abetting terrorism. ''Pakistan, insofar as sending terrorists or asking them to operate inside our territories are concerned, is not relenting in any way,'' he said in Srinagar. Despite Indian ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan''s military ruler General Pervez Musharraf continues to harp on ceasing of ''brutal acts'' in the Valley before militants can halt their operations, a PTI report from Islamabad said. In a desperate attempt to justify the activities of militants, who have not responded to the ceasefire, Gen. Musharraf told reporters in Karachi on Sunday: ''Indian forces are committing atrocities on the Kashmiri people, which are being countered by these groups.''


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