24 Hurt In Bomb Attack In Indian Kashmir: Police, Doctors

19 March 2008
Agence France-Presse

Srinagar: At least 24 people were wounded in Indian Kashmir's main city Wednesday in a bomb attack by Islamic militants, police and doctors said. The attack on a flyover shattered months of relative calm in the disputed region, which had seen a steady decline in rebel violence following the launch of a peace process in 2004 between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. 'Militants planted an improvised explosive device on a flyover that exploded, causing injuries,' said police officer Pervez Ahmed. Twenty-four people were admitted to Srinagar's main hospital, and two of them were in a critical condition, doctors there said. 'The explosive device was apparently planted inside an abandoned police picket (post) on the flyover,' Ahmed said, adding most of the casualties were from falling bricks and concrete. The bombing in the heart of the city was the worst since July last year when seven people were killed in a bomb explosion on a tourist bus. Islamic militants have been fighting New Delhi's rule over a part of Kashmir since 1989. Militant group Al Madina Regiment claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to the local Current News Service. Police say the group is a front for the Pakistan-based hardline rebel group Lashkar-e-Toiba and has claimed responsibility for previous attacks in Kashmir. The attack in central Srinagar came hours after Indian troops in the area said they had shot dead four members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group, including a senior commander from Pakistan. Part of the flyover had been destroyed, and two vehicles damaged. A group of women were wailing and police had sealed off the area. Windows in buildings in the immediate vicinity of the blast were shattered, including those in Srinagar's high court building. Ballistics experts were collecting samples from the scene of attack. 'It was a massive explosion. I hurriedly ducked into a shop to escape the flying glass,' said bank employee Imtiaz Ahmed. 'For a moment I thought hell has broken loose,' said Mushtaq Ahmed, who suffered leg injuries from falling debris. 'There was a deafening blast on the flyover as we walked under it.' The scene of the attack was close to where a near simultaneous militant car bombing and suicide attack took place in October 2001. Those attacks left 40 people dead, including five militants. India blames Pakistan for aiding Kashmiri rebels, a charge denied by Islamabad, although officials in New Delhi have reported a major drop in militant infiltration from Pakistan in recent months.