|Relatives of Javeed Ahmad, killed in a grenade explosion, at his funeral in Srinagar on Friday. (Reuters)
Srinagar, April 14: Blast after blast struck Srinagar’s high-security areas and tourist spots today, killing five people, wounding over 30 and reminding residents of the heydey of militancy a decade and a half ago.
Militants struck at seven places in the city, hurling hand grenades at security personnel that often took the lives of civilian passers-by, on a day people offered special Friday prayers following Id-Milad, Prophet Mohammad’s birth anniversary, earlier this week.
“It was violence at its worst and I was reminded of the early 1990s. There was absolute panic as news poured in of one blast after the other,” said fruit seller Mehraj-ud-Din.
Four militant groups ' Jamiat-ul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Islamic Front and Al-Mansoorian ' claimed responsibility for the attacks that came despite tightened security as the rush of pilgrims to Hazratbal shrine coincided with the traditional reopening of the Mughal Gardens on Baisakhi.
A hand grenade was thrown at securitymen regulating traffic at the tourist hub of Dalgate. It exploded on the street, killing three civilians and injuring two.
Minutes earlier, another grenade hurled at a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) bunker at Amirakadal in the city centre had injured 12 civilians, two of whom died in hospital.
“I was on my way to Hazratbal shrine when suddenly an explosion occurred behind me,” said Sajida Bano. “Luckily I had crossed the spot minutes ago ' it’s a new lease of life for me.”
Mohammad Shafi was near the BSNL headquarters when the day’s first blast went off, wounding two BSF troopers and a civilian.
“I had a miraculous escape as the grenade exploded a few metres away from me,” the 32-year-old shopkeeper said. “Initially I thought I was wounded as my legs refused to move, but I soon realised this was because of the shock.”
The sixth blast came at a joint CRPF-police checkpoint in downtown Safakadal, injuring eight civilians and five personnel, one of whom is fighting for his life in hospital.
In between, explosions were reported from Batmallo and Magarmal Bagh, with a police vehicle blown up.
Late in the evening, a seventh blast left three injured at Bohrikadal, about 1.5 km from Safakadal.
With 10 days left for four Assembly bypolls ' chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is a candidate from Bhaderwah ' the Election Commission has directed the authorities to beef up security.
The dead include two women ' Deepika Joshi, a Nepalese labourer, and Shahina ' police said.