Kashmir outfit claims blasts in Indian Hindu holy city
VARANASI, India -An unknown militant group claimed responsibility on Thursday for blasts that killed 23 people in Indias holiest Hindu city of Varanasi as grieving relatives cremated victims. The group Lashkar-e-Kahar told a news agency in Indian Kashmir, where an Islamic revolt is raging against New Delhis rule, that it staged on Tuesdays blasts. We have carried out the attacks, a man identifying himself as Abdul Jabbar, the groups spokesman, told Current News Service in a telephone call. He threatened more attacks if India does not stop atrocities against Kashmiri Muslims.
Police in Indian Kashmirs summer capital Srinagar said they had never heard of the group, whose name translates as Army of the Imperious, but were taking the claim seriously and had begun an investigation.
|"We own the copyright on atrocities in Kashmir!"|
Police released sketches Thursday of two male suspects in their twenties.They said the suspects were believed to be of Kashmiri origin and had planted a bomb at a store which failed to explode. From eyewitness accounts, we think up to five people were behind the attacks and were trying to ascertain the involvement of a woman terrorist, police chief Navneet Sikera said.
One Islamic militant suspect was shot dead Wednesday near the state capital Lucknow. Police identified him as the chief of the state wing of the pro-Pakistan Lashkar-e-Taiba or Army of the Pious guerrilla group. Police were deployed in strength across Uttar Pradesh, Indias most populous state, to prevent Hindu revenge attacks against Muslims.
Prominent local Muslims appealed for the bombings not to destroy good relations between the two religious groups. Hindus and Muslims have been living in perfect harmony in Varanasi for centuries ... so we cannot afford a rift now, said Muslim leader Anjum Madani.
Muslim leaders also wrote a letter to city authorities demanding the sternest possible action against the perpetrators, said Varanasis chief civilian administrator Ramesh Gokad.
|"We're kind of out-numbered here"|
The city saw street protests and a strike Wednesday but no violence and the situation had more or less returned to normal, Sikera said. But he said militants could target other Hindu shrines in Uttar Pradesh. It was Ayodhya last July, then it was Varanasi ... It is just a matter of time, hesaid.
Last July Muslim rebels stormed a makeshift temple built on the rubble of Ayodhyas Babri mosque, demolished by Hindu zealots in 1992. The raiders were killed by troopers guarding the site. The mosque demolition triggered communal riots in 1992 that left 2,000 people dead across India. Attacks on religious sites in India, where Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists have lived side by side since time immemorial, always fan fears of violence.
|Cuz they've been killing each other since time immemorial, with a pause now and then.|
The last major bloodshed was in early 2002 in western Gujarat state where Muslims were blamed for torching a train and killing 59 Hindu activists.
An inquiry later ruled the blaze accidental but at least 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, died in the ensuing bloodbath. We are ready to guard against instigation of such violence, state home secretary Alok Sinha said.
Posted by: Steve 2006-03-09