Fresh violence wipes out two families in Jammu and Kashmir (Roundup)

July 24th, 2008 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar/Jammu, July 24 (IANS) A fresh outbreak of violence Thursday wiped out two families as eight people, including six children, were killed in Jammu and Kashmir, where legislative assembly elections are just months away. While a migrant labourer lost his wife and four children in a deadly grenade blast in Srinagar, suspected guerrillas massacred a former Hizbul Mujahideen militant and three of his family members in mountainous Doda district of Jammu region.

In the summer capital of the terror-torn north Indian state, the police said, 22 people were also injured when separatist guerrillas hurled a grenade, which fell near one of the ticket counters in the main bus depot at Batamaloo, barely half a kilometre from the civil secretariat.

Migrant workers and their family members, along with other hundreds of commuters, were milling around when the blast occurred.

“The five deceased have been identified as Rubina Khatoon, 34, wife of Muhammad Afroze, Khusboo, 12, Ayub 8, Qayoom, 7, and Adil, 4. All were children of Muhammad Afroze and Rubina,” a police press release said.

Little did Afroze, a labourer from Bihar, know that he would lose his four children and his wife, for whom he was in the Kashmir Valley to earn livelihood.

Afroze was lying in a state of absolute shock in the hospital, where doctors pronounced his family members dead one after the other.

“Destiny could not have been more cruel to this poor man whose entire world ended in a blast,” said a doctor at the hospital.

Siraj-ud-Din, 45, a local resident who had come for treatment to the out-patients’ department of the hospital was so shocked when he heard of the tragedy that he had to be helped to a bed in the casualty ward.

“The poor father had come to make an honest living here. He was a labourer who was not even remotely connected with politics or violence. His death has shocked us all,” said Naseer, 34, who runs a medical shop outside the hospital.

Twenty labourers were among the 22 wounded in the explosion, the police said.

Unconfirmed reports said seven of the injured were Hindu pilgrims who had returned from the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir. However, the police denied the reports.

“All the injured were migrant workers and none of them was an Amarnath pilgrim,” the police statement said.

The blast triggered panic and confusion as the police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) surrounded the depot.

“I saw the injured, including children, crying for help. There was panic all around and everyone fled for safety,” said Abdul Rashid, a shopkeeper.

No group has claimed responsibility for the grenade attack.

In a separate attack, suspected guerrillas shot dead a former militant of the Hizbul Mujahideen and three members of his family in mountainous Doda district and the police said the massacre appears to be an act of reprisal.

The incident occurred around 11.30 p.m. Wednesday when terrorists barged into the house of Hizbul Mujahideen’s former guerrilla Ghulam Hassan in Marmat area, about 170 km north of Jammu, the police said.

“They (militants) opened indiscriminate fire, killing Hassan, 40, and three of his family members,” said the police. The dead included his wife Azima, 36, his daughter Asiya, 14, and his nephew Tauseef, 7, a Class 7 student.

The incident, police said, looked like an act of reprisal by the guerrillas whose ranks Hassan had deserted a few months ago.

“The matter is under investigation and the security forces have launched search operations (to nab) the militants,” senior superintendent of police (Doda) Raghubir Singh said.

“We are looking into the whole incident, trying to find out the motive,” Singh told IANS over the phone.

Violence in Jammu and Kashmir had been steadily declining since India and Pakistan initiated a peace process in 2004. But it surged in recent weeks with militant activities suddenly picking up. Insurgents triggered a roadside bomb on an Indian Army convoy July 19 that killed seven soldiers and wounded many in Srinagar.

The state is preparing for assembly elections due in October-November. Jammu and Kashmir is under governor’s rule following the collapse of the Congress-led coalition government earlier this month.

The flare-up of violence also comes days after India and Pakistan started a new round of peace talks over Kashmir. Kashmiri separatist guerrillas are opposed to the India-Pakistan peace talks.

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