Srinagar, Oct. 2: Militants kept up their bloody assault on Kashmir, killing 10 people a day after the third round of voting claimed 18 lives in a spate of anti-poll violence.
Two persons were killed and at least 20 wounded — many of them badly burned — when militants bombed a bus carrying Vaishnodevi pilgrims in Jammu. Five BSF jawans were blown up when their vehicle ran over a landmine in Pulwama district, while three National Conference activists were gunned down in volatile Kupwara, a district bordering Pakistan.
A police official said the militants had planted a time bomb in the bus before it left the stand in Jammu around 6.15 this morning. The bus caught fire after the explosion at Manda on the Jammu-Katra Road. “There was a big bang,” Sheru, a passenger, said. “The bus cracked open and we were thrown out and then the bus caught fire. Then I fainted.”
A few hours later, the twisted, smouldering wreckage of the bus still lay on the road, luggage scattered all around.
Local people saved several passengers and rushed them to hospital where two persons, identified as Keshav Sharma and Ritu Devi of Batala in Punjab, succumbed. The condition of five of the injured, mostly from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal, was stated to be critical.
Senior police officers from Jammu rushed to the spot along with fire brigade personnel and brought the flames under control. Director general of police A.K. Suri said the blast could be the handiwork of either the Lashkar-e-Toiba or the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
Several people who had gathered at the site of the blast later raised slogans against chief minister Farooq Abdullah for his failure to protect innocent people. They also raised slogans against Pakistan and militants.
In a repeat of yesterday’s strike, militants killed five BSF personnel by triggering a landmine blast in Pulwama district. The militants detonated an improvised explosive device in Pashtuna village of Tral around 8 am when the paramilitary troops were sanitising the road, police sources said.
Last evening, as polls had closed, seven BSF jawans died when their vehicle ran over a landmine in the Awantipora area of the same district.
The pro-Pakistan Hizb-ul Mujahideen today claimed responsibility for the two blasts. A spokesman of the outfit called up the office of a local news agency and claimed that its cadre carried out the attacks.
In Kupwara, three National Conference workers were gunned down last night for “actively participating in the Assembly polls”, the police said. The three, one of them a village head, were returning from a camp of security forces, the police added.
An outfit called Lashker-e-Jabbar claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a major catch, the BSF today arrested Shabir Ahmed Zargar, a top militant of the pro-Pakistan al-Umar Mujahideen outfit, BSF sources said.
Shabir, a self-styled chief of the al-Umar commando force, a strike wing of the outfit, is a close confidant of Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, one of the three militants released by the Indian government to end the 1999 hijacking of the Indian Airlines aircraft IC 814.