M A I N   N E W S

Ultras storm Srinagar Tourist Centre
Muzaffarabad bus passengers evacuated, both militants killed
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, April 6
Only hours before the launch of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, militants launched a suicide attack on the Tourist Reception Centre this afternoon in which both militants were killed. The body of an unidentified militant had been retrieved, while search for another, believed to be under the debris, was on.

A police spokesman said militants forced their entry into the centre and resorted to indiscriminate firing at 3.50 p.m. They set a building of the centre on fire, he added. All passengers of the inaugural bus service were safely evacuated. Six persons, including a constable, were injured in the incident, the spokesman said.

Both buildings of the centre and the Road Transport Corporation, where 21 prospective passengers had been lodged, were gutted in the exchange of fire between the militants and the security forces.

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the UPA chairperson, Mr Sonia Gandhi, would be flagging off the bus at the nearby SK Stadium tomorrow. The attack took place despite unprecedented security measures in view of the threat by four separatist militant organisations.

Four militant outfits, that had earlier issued the threat, have claimed responsibility of the attack. A spokesman for the organisations, Sameer Abdullah, told some local media agencies here on telephone that two militants of these organisations had undertaken the responsibility of the attack.

Four militant organisations had warned the passengers on Saturday last against boarding the bus describing it as “coffin”, as it was no solution to the Kashmir problem.

Earlier, the police detected and defused an IED planted by suspected militants near the flyover at Jehangir Chowk.

Meanhile, the historic Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus has been named the ‘Kaarwan-e-Aman’ (peace caravan).

The Jammu and Kashmir Government had announced a competition, inviting entries for naming the much-awaited cross border bus from all over the country. It had announced Rs 10,000 as prize for the best entry.

The authorities late tonight announced that in all 24 passengers would travel on the inaugural Srinagar-Muzaffarbad bus tomorrow.

Highly placed sources here said that five passengers from the Jammu region had withdrawn at the last minute.

This came a few hours after militants attacked the Tourist Reception Centre where the passengers were lodged.

The authorities in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir had cleared a list of 29 passengers from India for the inaugural run of the bus.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed visited the passengers of the Muzaffarabad-bound bus. He reassured the passengers of foolproof security and safe journey to Muzaffarabad.

The unfazed passengers told the Chief Minister that they would go ahead with their travel plan. 


Passenger missing

Srinagar, April 6
One of the passengers of the inaugural Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, who had dropped out citing personal reasons, has gone missing since Monday, his relatives said here today.

Haji Ghulam Ahmad Wani, a resident of Bagh-e-Mehtab on the city outskirts, had dropped out of the inaugural bus journey citing health reasons and was asked to accompany police officials to sign an undertaking on Monday, his son said. Mr Wani has not returned home ever since, he said, adding that efforts to trace him have gone futile. — PTI

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