Five killed in Kashmir car bomb blast
Five people including a suicide bomber were killed and more than a dozen wounded on Wednesday in a car bomb blast that Islamic militants said was a “gift” to Indian Kashmir’s incoming chief minister.
Police said the explosion took place in the Nowgam area on the outskirts of the summer capital Srinagar.
“We have five killed, including the suicide bomber,” a police spokesperson said, adding that more than 12 people were wounded, including five policemen.
Islamic militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to the local news agency Current News Service (CNS).
“Our suicide bomber targeted a security patrol,” the spokesperson for the group told CNS.
“The car bomb is our first gift to Ghulam Nabi Azad,” Abu Qudama, spokesperson for Jaish-e-Mohammed, told another news agency, the Kashmir News Service (KNS).
Azad was later on Wednesday to be sworn is as the Himalayan state’s new chief minister, as part of a power-sharing deal between the regional Peoples Democratic Party and Azad’s Congress party. The PDP’s chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed completed his three years in power on Wednesday.
Qudama identified the suicide bomber as Mohammed Mubashir Hussain. He told KNS that Hussain hailed from the Pakistani zone of divided Kashmir.
The Himalayan territory is split between India and Pakistan and claimed in full by both.
The arch-rivals have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.
The police spokesperson said investigators were uncertain of the suicide bomber’s intended target, but that the explosion took place after the bomber ignored police controls.
“Our policemen have foiled their [the militants’] attempts to carry out an attack,” senior police officer Javed Maqdoomi said.
In the lead-up to the blast, the bombers car was signalled to stop by a police patrol in the centre of Srinagar but the driver ignored the signal and sped off, police sources said.
The car was again ordered to stop by police in Nowgam, at which stage the attacker detonated the explosives-laden car.
Army and paramilitary convoys pass every day through Nowgam, which is close to the private home of outgoing chief minister Sayeed.
An Agence France Presse photographer at the scene said car parts were sent flying more than 100m from the site of explosion, which also caused damage to adjoining buildings. The suicide bomber was blown to pieces.
Residents said the blast smashed the window panes of dozens of houses in the vicinity.
“It was a deafening blast. Everyone panicked and ran for cover,” said Ghulam Ahmed, a local resident.
Already-tight security for the swearing-in ceremony at the International Convention Complex was beefed up further after the attack, a police officer said.
Troops were patrolling the lakeside venue on foot and by motorboat.
“Tight security arrangements have been put in place for today’s [Wednesday’s] ceremony,” Maqdoomi told reporters.
He said all routes leading to the venue had been “sealed and secured”.
The car blast followed serial bombings at the weekend in New Delhi which killed 62 people in crowded market places.
The little-known Islamic Revolutionary Group claimed responsibility for those blasts and said attacks would continue as long as Indian troops remain in Kashmir.
Police say the group has links to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pan-Islamic group which has been involved in a number of deadly attacks including some in Kashmir, where an anti-Indian insurgency has been raging since 1989. - AFP