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Kashmiri politicians escape bid on life

India's former junior foreign minister, Umar Abd Allah, his father and former Kashmir chief minister Faruq Abd Allah and several other party figures have narrowly escaped a bid on their

Last Modified: 24 Oct 2004 16:27 GMT
Umar Abd Allah being greeted by partymen after Sunday's attack

India's former junior foreign minister, Umar Abd Allah, his father and former Kashmir chief minister Faruq Abd Allah and several other party figures have narrowly escaped a bid on their lives.

But seven others were injured, three of them critically, in the incident on Sunday in Anantnag, a town located about 55km south of the state's summer capital Srinagar, Kashmir police said.

 

Umar, who heads the pro-Indian National Conference party, and the others were at a Muslim cemetery to offer prayers in memory of a recently slain National Conference leader and former minister, Mirza Safdar Ali Baig.

 

Witnesses said an improvised explosive device (IED) went off, causing havoc among the assembled mourners.

 

Those injured were taken to a hospital in Anantnag. The more seriously injured were later transferred to a Srinagar hospital for specialised treatment. A report, not confirmed by police, said that one of those wounded had later died.

 

Remote control

 

"The IED had been planted in the boundary wall of the cemetery and was apparently triggered with a remote control," said a police officer.

 

Indian security forces have been
battling separatism since 1989

According to the witnesses, Umar was coming out of his vehicle, which had stopped barely 12ft from the boundary wall, when the explosion occurred. His father's motorcade was following closely behind.

 

They and other party leaders and functionaries, who had already assembled for the traditional Kashmiri prayer meeting four days after Baig's death, had a truly providential escape.

 

Perennial target

 

"Everybody began running for safety leaving behind half a dozen persons in pools of blood," one witness said.

 

The blast shattered the windows of Umar's vehicle, police said.

 

"The IED had been planted in the boundary wall of the cemetery and was apparently triggered with a remote control"

Kashmir police officer

The National Conference party, which currently sits in the opposition in the Kashmir state assembly, has been a perennial target of Kashmir's armed separatist groups.

 

The killing of Baig - shot dead by unidentified assailants outside his ancestral house at Sarnal near Anantnag town on Thursday - is only the latest of many blows inflicted on the party over the past several years.

 

However, none of the over dozen anti-Indian government groups active in Kashmir have claimed responsibility for Baig's death.

 

Blame

 

Umar later said the incident was a "serious security lapse", and blamed the state government headed by the father-son duo's long-standing political foe, Mufti Muhammad Sayyid, for it.

 

Separatist activists see National
Conference as a pro-India party

He said: "As is visible, the area, which was to be visited by a former chief minister and a former union minister who fall under the "Z Plus" security category (the highest in India) and are both members of Indian parliament, had not been sanitised, which establishes official apathy.

 

"I am tired of saying that my security is being toyed with. How much proof can I give you?"

 

Umar added: "If New Delhi does not open its eyes, I don't know when they will."

 

He said the law-and-order situation in Kashmir was bad. 

 

"On top of that, the NC is being made a scapegoat. If they want us to stop our work here, we will," he said.

 

Hi-tech attacks

 

But Kashmir's inspector general of police, K Rajendra Kumar, said his men had checked the burial ground and the adjoining areas using jammers and metal detectors, adding that other necessary security precautions had been taken.

 

"I am tired of saying that my security is being toyed with. How much proof can I give you?"

Umar Abd Allah,
National Conference party chief and former Indian junior foreign minister

None the less, Kumar said recent attacks of the kind that took place on Sunday, suggested anti-government fighters had gone hi-tech. The gadgets being used by security forces may be failing to detect landmines and other IEDs favoured by the rebels, he said.

 

Indian officials admit that security forces on counter-insurgency duty in Kashmir suffer more casualties in IED explosions than in direct attacks by separatist fighters.

 

Kumar called for a review of the police's capabilities and said his forces may have to upgrade its equipment to tackle the challenges.

Source:
Aljazeera
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