Bombing at Kashmir assembly kills at least 29
SRINAGAR, Kashmir (CNN) -- A suicide bomber rammed a car full of explosives into the main gate of the state legislature building in Srinagar, Kashmir, on Monday afternoon. At least 29 people were killed in the explosion and subsequent fighting with rebels.
Police said the bombing allowed rebel fighters to enter the legislative compound, and firing continued hours after the explosion. Fire officials said part of the legislative building was on fire.
Witnesses said the blast killed nine people instantly. Many more died of their injuries on the way to hospital.
Jaish-e-Mohammad, an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack in calls to news agencies.
The attack took place around 2 p.m., less than an hour after the legislative assembly had finished business for the day. Several senior Kashmiri leaders already had left the building. The parliament speaker was escorted to safety by security forces.
The attack on the Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly strikes symbolically at India's pride in its democratic form of government.
In response, the Indian Exterior Ministry issued a strongly worded statement aimed clearly at the government of Pakistan.
"India cannot accept such manifestations of hate and terror from across its borders," said the statement. "There is a limit to India's patience."
Among the dead were five policemen, five legislative employees and a schoolgirl, police said.
More than 30,000 people have died since the revolt took off in Muslim-majority Kashmir in late 1989. Muslim rebels and Indian forces are fighting over control of Kashmir republic.
India blames Pakistan for fomenting the rebellion, but Islamabad says it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people.
Rebels called to arms against U.S.
Guerrilla groups have staged a series of suicide attacks on Indian army installations across the Himalayan state in recent months.
Indian officials say there have been conflicting reports of rebel plans in Kashmir since the September 11 attacks in the United States, which led to an international coalition against terrorism.
Security officials said there was some intelligence information suggesting that many of the rebels, who include Afghan fighters, had been asked to withdraw to their home base to fight a possible strike by the United States on Afghanistan.
Washington has massed troops, ships and planes within striking distance of Afghanistan where it believes Osama bin Laden, the main suspect in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, is hiding.
Guerrilla groups, however, have denied that any of the Islamic fighters were heading out of Kashmir Valley.
Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani was quoted as saying the global war on terrorism would eventually target Pakistani bases of guerrillas operating in Kashmir.
Advani told the Business Standard newspaper that the United States had assured the government it would strike against camps in Pakistan where Muslim guerrillas fighting Indian forces in Kashmir are trained.
"Phase two will include operations against cross-border terrorism in Kashmir," he said. "At the end of this chapter, militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is bound to lose its sting."
Policemen killed in Kashmir
August 24, 2001
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