Fatal bomb meant to disrupt Kashmiri elections

April 21, 1996
Web posted at: 12:35 p.m. EDT (1635 GMT)

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- A bomb blast that killed at least 17 people in the Indian capital was aimed at stopping elections next month in troubled Kashmir, two separatist groups said Sunday.

The blast tore through a four-story boarding house in the heart of the capital. It was one of the deadliest bomb attacks in the city's history.

"Eight of us were sitting in a room when the lights went out and there was a loud blast," said 22-year-old Zohar Afaqwani, who was hospitalized. "We immediately rushed to the balcony and jumped down from the first floor."

Authorities said three Nigerian men, two French nationals, a Dutchman and a Briton were among the eight non-Indians killed when the 25-room building exploded. A European woman, whose nationality was unknown, also died.

Rescuers combed through debris all night searching for survivors and more bodies while residents shouted anti- Kashmiri slogans.

India New Delhi

Seeking to stop rivals

The militants -- the Islami Harkat-ul-Momineen and the Khalistan Liberation Force -- released a joint statement claiming responsibility for Saturday's attack, which injured about 30 people. The groups said the bomb was triggered by remote control.

"We have vowed to fight till last to stop India's plan to stage election drama," the statement said. The election begins next week and ends May 30 in Jammu and Kashmir -- the only Muslim-majority state in predominantly Hindu India.

"Some anti-movement activists, including some foreigners of friendly neighboring countries of India, were holding a meeting when the bomb was exploded, killing all of them," the statement said.

The parliamentary elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be the first since 1989. The Himalayan state has been under direct federal rule since a separatist revolt erupted in 1990. More than 20,000 people have been killed.

The state's biggest pro-India regional party, the National Conference, has refused to participate in the election, and militants have vowed to step up attacks against security forces before voting begins. Indian authorities have said guerrillas might even strike civilian targets.


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