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Bus list back under glare

Srinagar/New Delhi, April 13: The war of nerves over the peace bus has broken out again with a militant combine claiming that it has laid hands on the confidential list of passengers for the second round and officials insisting that a red-herring roster is in place to outsmart the rebels.

The militant group, which had earlier made public the names of passengers on the first Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, today waved another list, claiming it has names of the 28 people cleared for the April 21 trip.

The four militant outfits warned the passengers not to undertake the journey, iterating the threat to attack the bus as well as the travellers. An attack was carried out on the passengers' shelter in Srinagar on the eve of the launch of the bus.

A fax attributed to the extremist combine made it a point to underscore that the new list is in English. The earlier one was in Urdu, prompting state government officials to suggest that it could have been leaked from the Pakistani side.

The militants, who had been insisting that the first list was leaked by the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed administration, today cited the 'English list' to claim that 'the myth of secrecy claimed by the chief minister's administration had been exploded'.

The four militant outfits ' Al-Nasreen, Save Kashmir Movement, Al-Arifeen and Farzandan-e-Milat ' claimed in the statement that the relatives of those who 'had travelled by the first bus' have approached the combo for clemency'.

However, the security establishment contested the militant claim. 'We are not saying that they cannot get access to the list. But they could not done so now because there is no such list so far,' a security officer said.

Fearing a replay of the leak, the regional passport office in Srinagar had handed over a list of 119 applicants, rather than 30 passengers, to Pakistan for clearance.

This way, an Indian official said, the identity of the passengers who will eventually travel on the next bus could be kept under wraps till the end.

Once authorities in occupied Kashmir clear the travel plans of say, even 50 passengers, it will not be clear till just a few days ahead of the April 21 journey who had been included in the final roster, the official claimed.

The Muzaffarabad deputy commissioner will hand over a list of the passengers on April 19, just two days before the proposed travel.

The militant claim came a few hours after the state government ordered a one-man probe into the conflagration that destroyed the Tourist Reception Centre, the maiden passenger's safe house.

Vigilance commissioner R.V. Raju will carry out the probe and submit a report in two months. Raju was a member of the team probing the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

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