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Four killed in grenade blast at Kashmir shrine

Indian troops
Last month Indian announced it was ending its ceasefire against separatist militants in Kashmir  

By Mukhtar Ahmed,
special to CNN

SRINAGAR, Kashmir (CNN) -- Police in Indian-administered Khasmir say at least four women have been killed and 50 others wounded in a grenade blast at one of the disputed territory's holiest shrines.

The attack took place Friday afternoon at Charar-i-Sharif mosque, 21 miles (34 km) from Srinagar the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

A senior police officer told CNN that the grenade was hurled into a crowd of devotees, many of them women, who were busy offering prayers at the Shrine of Shiekh Noor Din, the patron saint of Kashmir.

The shrine itself was reported to have been heavily damaged in the blast. Asia
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The attack comes four days after a grenade attack on a crowded street in Srinagar in which four people were killed.

Police say the attack took place during a Muslim women's prayer group gathering.

'Deafening blast'

The injured devotees were rushed to hospital, however three women were declared dead on arrival.

Another woman succumbed to her injuries minutes after she was admitted to the hospital.

"The devotees were busy offering the prayers when the grenade exploded in the premises of the mausoleum," said a police officer who asked not to be named.

"The devotees for the first time in the history of the shrine left without offering Friday Prayers."

"Everyone ran for security following the deafening sound of the blast," one of the injured women said as she awaited treatment.

"I noticed blood oozing out from my arm and then I ran and cried for help. My relative later helped me," she said.

"There was complete darkness in front of my eyes. Seconds later I realized that I was hit by splinters and found others around me in pool of blood."

Militants blamed

Six years ago the shrine, one of the most revered structures in Kashmir, was gutted in a fierce gun battle between the Indian army and Muslim militants who were holed up in the town.

Along with the shrine, much of the town of Charar-i-Sharif was also destroyed.

No one has yet admitted responsibility for Friday's blast.

However, a police spokesman has blamed the separatist Islamic militants for the attack.

India accuses Pakistan of giving financial and military to the militants -- an accusation Islamabad has repeatedly denied.

Last month India announced it was ending six-month old unilateral ceasefire against the militants.

At the same time it invited Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharaf to visit New Delhi for talks on easing tensions over the disputed territory.

Islamabad has said it intends to accept the offer although no date for the summit has yet been set.

Since the Indian announcement violence across Kashmir has surged and more than 160 people, most of them guerrillas, are reported to have been killed.

Recently two of the largest militant groups, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, announced they were imposing a ban on grenade attacks at busy public places in Kashmir.

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