Srinagar/ New Delhi, Sept. 6: A powerful car bomb ripped through a fruit market in the summer capital today, killing at least seven civilians, as militants stepped up their dance of death across Kashmir that left several more dead.
Police said the militants triggered the car bomb around 9.45 this morning as an army vehicle passed near the main fruit market in Parimpora. The explosion killed three civilians on the spot and injured 37, among them an army brigadier and four of his guards.
The pro-Pakistan Hizb-ul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the blast.
“The bomb was planted in a car and parked near the gate of the fruit market,” K. Rajendran, Kashmir’s inspector general of police, said. The market on the Srinagar-Uri highway remains crowded in the morning.
The blast site was littered with blood-soaked footwear of the dead or injured. “I was sitting inside my house when a sudden blast shook it and I ran out to look. I saw smoke and passers-by running. I gained courage and reached near the injured. Others also reached the spot,” said Mohammad Abdullah, a resident.
“We first took the seriously injured crying for help to the SMHS hospital and others were taken to the nearby hospital for treatment.”
Three seriously injured persons, the police said, succumbed to their injuries in the SMHS hospital. In the afternoon, one more injured civilian died.
The explosion, which destroyed several vehicles and shattered window panes of nearby shops and houses, was heard two kilometres away, triggering tension in the city where a complete strike was observed today to protest the recent hike in power tariff by the state government.
The blast, which follows the August 25 explosions in Mumbai and the encounter on August 30 that killed Jaish-e-Mohammad Kashmir commander Gazi Baba, came on a day militants stepped up attacks across the state.
Two hours after the morning blast, a landmine explosion sent an army bus rolling down a 50-foot-deep gorge in Doda district, injuring two persons. The Hizb claimed responsibility for the Doda blast, too. “We inflicted heavy casualties on the Indian security forces,” said a spokesman of the outfit who called up local newspaper offices.
In north Kashmir’s Baramullah district, an army jawan was killed and three others were injured after militants opened fire on a patrol. In Jammu’s Kathua district, the standoff with Lashkar-e-Toiba militants entered its fifth day. In another encounter in Poonch district, militants fired on a police party, killing a special officer and a civilian.
In Poonch, two women were killed after being severely tortured. Militants barged into two houses in a village, abducted the two and chopped off their limbs before murdering them.
Indian authorities believe the spurt in terrorist strikes will continue through September and is likely to taper down next month, when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf conclude their visit to New York for the UN General Assembly session.
“If Kashmir remains on the boil, attention is back on India and Pakistan. This is exactly what the Musharraf regime wants,” said a senior official.