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Car bomb in India kills 31

Headline Photo
Associated Press

Indian paramilitary soldiers walk past the remains of the car used in a bomb explosion, killing at least 15 people near the entrance of State Legislature in Srinagar, India, yesterday. A suspected Islamic militant drove the car to the assembly building and blew it up just after most of the legislators left a meeting there, police said.

By Associated Press

Tuesday October 2, 2001

SRINAGAR, India - Gunmen set off a car bomb outside the state legislature in Indian-ruled Kashmir and then opened fire inside the building yesterday, police said. At least 31 people were killed and 75 wounded in the volatile region's

worst violence in two years.

Two assailants rushed into the Jammu-Kashmir assembly building after the explosion and traded fire with security forces for seven hours before both were killed, police said. They said many of the casualties were victims of the car

bomb, including the driver.

State lawmakers have been meeting in another building nearby since the legislature was damaged by fire recently, and none was hurt, but seven employees still working in the building that was attacked were killed, police said. Nearly 100 others escaped unharmed.

One of the Islamic militant groups fighting for the independence of Jammu-Kashmir claimed responsibility for the attack, whose victims included nine security officers and several civilians.

The death toll was the highest in a single attack in the state since 1999, when 35

Hindus were massacred by militants during a pilgrimage to a cave they regard

as holy.

For 12 years, more than a dozen Muslim militant groups have been fighting for the independence of Jammu-Kashmir, the only state in mostly Hindu India with a Muslim majority. Tens of thousands of people have died.

The Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for

the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press in Srinagar.

While police said the attackers stole a federal telecommunications department vehicle at gunpoint and released its driver shortly before the attack, the claim of responsibility said the assailants rented a cab and loaded it with explosives.

Police said the three attackers drove the vehicle to the assembly building and blew it up at about 2 p.m. The driver was killed, but the other two assailants, dressed in police uniforms, got out and stormed into the building firing guns and throwing hand grenades.

The car bomb blast shattered the windows of a nearby hotel and shops and left a dozen bodies lying in the street outside the legislature.

The attack occurred as lawmakers were leaving their temporary assembly hall nearby, and most of the victims were civilians who had been waiting on sidewalks or in cars as police stopped traffic to let the legislators pass.

The group that claimed responsibility for the attack was launched by Massood Azhar, a Pakistani who was one of three men freed from Indian jails in 1999 in exchange for the return of an Indian plane that had been hijacked to Afghanistan, and its passengers.

India called on Pakistan to take action against Jaish-e-Mohammad.

``At a time when the democratic world has formed a broad and determined coalition against international terrorism, India cannot accept such manifestations of hate and terror from across its borders,'' the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

Pakistan's foreign ministry condemned the attack, calling it an act of terrorism that was ``especially reprehensible as it appears to be aimed at maligning the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people for their right to self-determination.'' The Himalayan region of Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan after they gained independence in 1947. Both countries claim it in its entirety, and they have fought two wars over it. Pakistan supports the Kashmiri militants but denies India's claim that it arms and trains the militants,

who include some Afghan fighters loyal to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia.

That has raised concerns about what will happen in Kashmir now that the United States is threatening to punish the Taliban unless they hand over Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


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