Nine Killed, 80 Injured As Militants Attack PDP Rally; Mehbooba Escapes
8 April 2004
Uri: In the first-ever attack by militants in this border town, nine persons, two of them assistants of Jammu and Kashmir Ministers, were killed and 80, including two senior Ministers, were injured when grenades were hurled at a People's Democratic Party election rally today. The PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti, and the party candidate, Nizamuddin Bhat, escaped unhurt. Ms. Mehbooba and the Finance Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, were walking to the podium, just 100 metres away, when the militants struck. Four persons were killed on the spot. Police later confirmed the death of five others and the condition of at least 10 is said to be critical. Ms. Mehbooba and Mr. Bhat were immediately whisked away to safety by their guards. Abid Manhas, assistant to Mr. Baig, and Abdur Rashid, personal security officer of the Tourism Minister, Ghulam Hassan Mir, died of injuries in hospital, sources said. PDP supporters raised slogans against the police for the security lapse and had heated arguments with them. 'No senior police officer was present here,' a PDP worker said. Among the injured who were immediately rushed to hospital were Mr. Baig and Mr. Mir. While Mr. Mir was discharged from the hospital after first aid, Mr. Baig was rushed to Srinagar for treatment. 'He is out of danger but has received multiple injuries,' Sheikh Zahoor, his press officer, told The Hindu . The rest of the injured were shifted to Baramulla and Srinagar. 'Ready to face threat' Immediately after the attack, Ms. Mehbooba addressed the people at the venue. She reiterated her party's stand to strive for peace and for uniting the people on both sides of the border. She said her supporters blamed the Congress and police for sabotaging the peace moves. 'Both the BJP and the Congress do not want peace to be restored,' she said. 'Some goondas have challenged us but we are ready to face it. I would have been lucky to get killed with my party activists for the noble cause of peace.' She said she had not come for the votes but for the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. Mr. Mir said that such attacks would not dampen his party's spirit to continue the efforts for restoring peace and order in the State. 'The reaction of the people after the incident was visible,' he said.