Monday, January 15, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Farooq escapes bid on life
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen claims responsibility
Tribune News Service and agencies

SRINAGAR, Jan 14 — Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah escaped unhurt when militants fired a couple of grenades towards him when he was addressing a public meeting at Habba-Kadal in the old city this afternoon.

A Hizb-ul-Mujahideen spokesman later called up local journalists, stating that the outfit has owned the responsibility for the attack.

An official spokesman said militants fired two grenades from an unknown place on Dr Abdullah when he was addressing the public meeting after inaugurating a bridge on the Jhelum at Habba-Kadal.

He said one of the grenades fell in the Jhelum, while the other exploded on the other side of the river without causing any damage.

A police spokesman, however, said militants fired grenades from Khanyar, 1 km from the venue of the public meeting.

He said the grenades exploded about 200 metres away without causing any damage.

The security forces deployed in the area later fired some shots in the air, the spokesman said.

Eyewitnesses said the Black Commandos were seen shielding the Chief Minister and other VIPs on the dais.

They said, “For a moment, we thought it is all over now as the grenade explosions followed firing. We laid down on the road thinking that it was a Fidayeen attack.’’

Dr Abdullah was asking people not to worry, they added.

However, people ran helter skelter for safety.

Dr Abdullah continued his address and said that he would not be cowed down by such attacks.

“Those who hurled grenades should know that I am not the person to be scared away,’’ he added.

He reaffirmed the government’s resolve to fight militancy and said he would take forward his mission of restoring peace in the state.

This is the first direct attack on the Chief Minister amid threats to his life from various militant organisations operating in the Kashmir valley over the past 10 years. The militants had earlier made several indirect attacks — firing grenades on the civil secretariat housing the office of the Chief Minister and his ministerial colleagues, particularly in 1998 and 1999.

A mine explosion had taken place near Ikhwan hotel when Dr Abdullah inaugurated a bridge there on December 5, 1999. However, the Chief Minister had left the venue minutes before the explosion took place. The Chief Minister has a “Z” security cover and is among the top 20 highly protected persons in the country.

Today’s attack comes for the first time after the Centre announced a unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir since November 28 last, beginning with the holy month of Ramzan. The month-long ceasefire was later extended by another month up to January 26.

Most of the militant organisations in Jammu and Kashmir have rejected the Centre’s offer of the unilateral ceasefire and have vowed to step up the attacks.

As a follow-up to the peace process, the Hurriyat Conference is planning to visit Pakistan and has already selected its five-member team to visit Pakistan to meet Pakistani leaders and militant leaders there.Back

Major among seven injured

SRINAGAR, Jan 14 (PTI) — An Army Major and four security men were among seven persons injured in a powerful landmine blast set off by militants and in clashes between ultras and security forces in three places in Jammu and Kashmir since last night.

Three soldiers, including Major Jitender Basker, were on a routine patrol when the ultras detonated the landmine at Aadora village in Baramulla district last evening, injuring them, an official spokesman said here today.

Two Border Security Force personnel were injured in an exchange of fire after the militants attacked a BSF camp at Manikote in Rajouri district of Jammu late last night, he said, adding that the militants escaped.

A civilian was wounded at Kachmala in Anantnag and another at Holia-Bhaderwah in Doda, during clashes between militants and security forces in the areas last night.Back


PM condemns attack

NEW DELHI, Jan 14 (PTI) — Condemning the abortive attempt on the life of Dr Farooq Abdullah, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today said such attacks would not lead to creation of a conducive atmosphere for peace talks in Jammu and Kashmir.

“If militants continue with acts of terrorism, then how will an atmosphere for peace talks be created ?,” Mr Vajpayee told reporters on his return here from a week-long visit to Vietnam and Indonesia.

Replying to questions, he said “I am relieved that Abdullah is safe. I compliment him.”

To a question that the Army favoured extension of the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir beyond Republic Day, the Prime Minister said, “There is a view that the ceasefire should be further extended.”

“All issues will be considered and a final decision on the issue will be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS),” he said.Back


PM non-committal on truce extension

BALI (Indonesia), Jan14 (PTI) — Blaming “certain elements” in Pakistan for continuing terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today signalled that the extension of ceasefire and progress on the peace initiative in the state would hinge on the creation of a conducive atmosphere by the ending cross-border terrorism sponsored by Islamabad.

“So far, the experience of ceasefire is mixed. People have welcomed ceasefire. People want peace but there are certain elements in Pakistan which have developed a vested interest in terrorism. Unfortunately, they are continuing with their activities,” Mr Vajpayee told mediapersons here before returning home after a visit to Indonesia and Vietnam.

“Wait for some more time,” he said when asked what sort of future direction he wanted to give to his government’s policy on Pakistan in the light of the Lahore declaration, Kargil conflict and the Jammu and Kashmir ceasefire.

Mr Vajpayee said: “There is a view that the ceasefire should be extended. All issues will be considered and a final decision on it will be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security.”

He condemned the attempt on the life of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and said such attacks would not lead to creation of a conducive atmosphere for peace talks.

Answering a question, he said he would examine the issue of issuance of passports to Hurriyat Conference leaders for their proposed visit to Pakistan on his return.

Replying to a question on the assassination bid on Mr Abdullah, Mr Vajpayee said: “If militants continue with acts of terrorism, how will an atmosphere for peace talks be created....I am relieved that Mr Adbullah is safe. I compliment him”.

Voicing hope that a satifactory solution would be found to the boundary dispute between India and China, he said: “Talks are on. The exchange of maps is on. I am hopeful that a satisfactory solution will emerge”.

The remark of Mr Vajpayee assumes significance as it comes a day ahead of his formal talks tomorrow in Delhi with Mr Li Peng, the second most powerful man in China’s hierarchy, who is currently on a visit to India.Back

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