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Samjhauta terror strike kills 67
Most dead Pakistanis
Yoginder Gupta, Vishal Joshi and Arun Sharma
Tribune News Service


AMITY BLASTED: Burning compartments of the Samjhauta Express at Deewana near Panipat on Sunday night. — PTI photo

Panipat, February 19
At least 67 persons were killed and 13 injured when two coaches of the Delhi-Attari Express (4001 Up) were engulfed in a devastating fire caused by an improvised explosive devices (IED) near here, on Sunday night.

The dead included two RPF personnel. The bodies were charred beyond recognition. At least 25 bodies were of men, 14 of women and 16 children. The remaining bodies were so badly burnt that the authorities found it difficult to identify their gender or age. Most of the dead belonged to Pakistan.

The Railway Minister, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, sees the mutilated body of a passenger at the Civil Hospital in Panipat on Monday
The Railway Minister, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, sees the mutilated body of a passenger at the Civil Hospital in Panipat on Monday. — Tribune photo by Ravi Kumar

The police has detained Mohammad Usman, a Pakistani national travelling on the train, for questioning. He was allegedly found under the influence of liquor. Another Pakistani national, Shamsudin, was let off after questioning. He had thrown a suitcase out of the train.

The man-made tragedy on the rails was obviously aimed at derailing the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan, as stated by the Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, who came here today to visit the site of the incident.

The ill-fated train left the old Delhi railway station at around 10.50 p.m. last night for Attari. It was carrying 604 passengers, besides the security personnel.

The IEDs were apparently planted in Delhi itself because once the train leaves the station, it does not stop anywhere before Ambala cantonment, where it stops for a few minutes for change of driver and guard.

According to eyewitnesses, when the train neared the Deevana railway station, 8 km from here, at 11.54 p.m. an alert gateman at railway crossing no. 47, Pawan Kumar, noticed the fire in two coaches (No. 12 and 13) and informed the Assistant Station Master, Mr Venod Gupta, who in turn informed the train guard and the driver, Mr Kisan Dhiman.

The train could be stopped after about 2 km near Siwah village. Mr Dhiman said after he failed to extinguish the fire, the burning coaches were disconnected so that the fire did not spread to other coaches.

Residents of Siwah village rushed to the spot and tried to help the passengers. The fire could be brought under control around 3 in the morning.

An injured passenger, Qamrudin from Multan in Pakistan, said the coach was suddenly filled with smoke, followed by a fire, after a blast.  

According to Mr A.S. Negi, Public Relations Officer of the Northern Railways, tickets for the Attari Express are issued only on being shown passport and the visa by the passengers.

The RPF and Government Railway Police personnel were supposed to check the luggage. However, some of the relatives of the passengers of the train, who had come here in search of their near and dear ones, alleged that the security personnel were more interested in making easy money than concentrating on ensuring security.

Haji Nasrudin of Delhi, who lost his sister-in-law, Ms Saqina Begum, alleged that unauthorised persons were allowed to board the train by the security personnel. However, Mr Negi said this was not possible because the railway staff re-checked the passports of each passenger on the train.

There seems to be no clue yet to the identity of the perpetrators of the crime. The Director-General of the Haryana Police, Mr Ranjiv Dalal, set up a special investigation team (SIT) headed by the DIG, Crime, Dr R.C. Mishra. The other members of the team are the S.P., Railways, Mrs Bharti Arora; the S.P., Crime, Mr Rajinder Singh; the DSP, Crime, Mr Dalbir Singh; and three Inspectors.

The Haryana Chief Secretary, Mr Prem Prashant, and the Home Secretary, Mr K.S. Bhoria, said help would be taken from central investigating agencies also.

The tragedy would have been still more grave if suitcases containing IEDs had detonated in two more coaches. It seems their timer malfunctioned.

One suitcase was thrown out of a coach by Shamsudin, a Pakistani national. Shamsudin reportedly told the police that he found a suitcase half open. When he saw a few bottles containing a liquid and IEDs, he immediately threw the suitcase out of the coach. Another suitcase was recovered from one of the coaches during police search.

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Kerosene bombs used, man detained
Tribune News Service

Coffins that packed bodies of victims outside the Civil Hospital, Panipat, on Monday
Coffins that packed bodies of victims outside the Civil Hospital, Panipat, on Monday. — AFP photo

New Delhi, February 19
A deadly combination of low-intensity explosives and kerosene bombs were used to trigger the blasts in the Delhi-Attari special train, which claimed the lives of 66 passengers. One person has been detained in connection with the twin blasts.

Forensic experts who collected samples from the scene of blasts were of the view that low-intensity explosives like sulphur or nitrate were used to trigger the explosions and kerosene-filled bottles kept in the coaches used as a catalyst to spread the fire, Home Ministry sources told The Tribune, quoting reports from the investigating teams at the scene of the incident.

Refusing to hazard a guess, pending thorough investigation, top Union Home Ministry officials said the investigation would go into all aspects, including involvement of terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) or Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM).

Pointing that the modus operandi was new and the idea seemed to be to cause large-scale destruction by fire, they said the report of bomb experts from the National Security Guards (NSG), who were at the spot, was expected to throw a lot of light.

Even as several security agencies were working in tandem to identify the culprits behind the ghastly attack, described by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil as an attempt to derail the peace process between India and Pakistan, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said that one person had been detained in connection with the twin blasts.

On the basis of information given by eye-witnesses, one person who was present in one of the two coaches that caught fire had been detained, he told newspersons after visiting the blast victims admitted to Safdarjung Hospital.

He said eyewitnesses, including one of the injured, Pakistani national Rana Shaukat Ali, had told him when he visited Panipat that two persons were sitting in the coach, their faces hidden behind mufflers and looking suspicious. Ali lost five members of his family in the blasts.

A Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable, who later succumbed to his injuries, had questioned the duo, he said, adding the whereabouts of the second person was not known.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, on his return here from the site of the blasts, asserted that the incident would not affect the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan as both the countries are ‘’big and mature having firm resolve.’’

Referring to the explosions on the eve of the visit of Pakistan Foreign Minister Kurshid Mahmood Kasuri to New Delhi, he said people wanted peace.

Mr Patil said a new type of explosives kept in suitcases were used for the explosion which burnt the two coaches of the Attari-bound train. The heat generated by the explosion was so intense that it melted the iron inside the coaches, he said.

“A lot of information has been gathered about the blasts, but I will not reveal them. Investigation is on. Stringent punishment would be given to those responsible for the heinous crime,’’ Mr Patil said, refusing to share any details of the investigations. “I am not in the blame game. I would inform Parliament about any outcome of the investigations,” Mr Patil added.

Meanwhile, Union Home Secretary V K Duggal, who held a meeting with Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and the Director, Intelligence Bureau, Mr P C Haldar, said the bombs were designed with a timer.

It was a major effort to sabotage the peace process and create communal conflict in the country.

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