Kashmir Leader Escapes Second Rebel Attack In Week
19 July 2004
Srinagar: The deputy chief minister of Indian Kashmir escaped an attempt on his life on Monday by Muslim militants, the second in a week, police said. Five people were killed and more than 40 wounded in an grenade explosion at a public meeting being addressed by Mangat Ram Sharma in Duru in southern Kashmir. Two other ministers sitting on the podium were also unharmed, a police officer said. 'I saw a huge red flash before I fell down. Policemen carried me to an ambulance which was packed with injured (people),' Mohammad Shafi, a wounded villager, told Reuters in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir. A police statement said the blast near the podium was caused by a grenade. Among the wounded were the district's top bureaucrat and a police superintendent and three journalists. 'It was a huge explosion near the stage, everyone ran in every direction,' said Abdul Gani Vakil, a spokesman of the ruling Congress party which had organised the public meeting. 'People were screaming and crying,' he said. No militant group claimed responsibility for the attack in Duru which officials say has long been a stronghold of the guerrillas fighting Indian rule in Muslim- majority Kashmir. 'It was an attack on innocents ... some people were in pool of blood,' Sharma told reporters after the attack. There was no apparent reason why militants were targeting Sharma, a veteran state leader of the Congress party, which also leads the federal coalition. 'This was a serious attack, they came very close. But we don't know why he is being targeted,' a police officer said. Soldiers threw a ring around Sharma and his cabinet colleagues and drove them away after the explosion. Last Tuesday, rebels fired a grenade on Sharma's motorcade in Srinagar as he headed for the opening of Kashmir's first flyover. Three policemen and a girl were wounded in that attack. Monday's attack took place as top diplomats from India and Pakistan met in Islamabad to discuss ways to push forward a nascent peace process that began last year. The nuclear rivals have agreed to hold substantive negotiations for a final settlement of their dispute over Kashmir. Violence in Kashmir has spiralled this month. Officials say this could be aimed at disrupting the peace talks.