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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April 2005, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Reunited Kashmiris' tears of joy
The Peace Bridge at the Line of Control
There were emotional scenes at the Line of Control's Peace Bridge
There have been tearful reunions for Kashmiris travelling on the first bus service across the divided region in nearly 60 years.

The buses, between Srinagar in Indian-controlled Kashmir and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan's sector, have now both completed their journeys.

The service is seen as a sign of India and Pakistan's improving relations - both claim Kashmir in its entirety.

Militants vowed to target the service and one bus survived a grenade attack.

The grenade was thrown after the bus from Srinagar passed by at Pattan, about 27km (16 miles) from Srinagar. Four people, including a policeman, were hurt.

Charged with emotion

Some of the passengers arriving in Muzaffarabad were met by family members amid high emotion before being take to an official reception.


The BBC's Altaf Hussein in Srinagar says the atmosphere was charged with emotion as relatives rushed to greet them and hugged them with tears of joy.

A brass band playing Bollywood music heralded the arrival of the bus at a convention centre near Srinagar's Dal Lake.

Earlier, at the Line of Control, the BBC's Zaffar Abbas said that many of the passengers for Srinagar had tears in their eyes as they crossed, others were simply overwhelmed at an event that has no parallel in India-Pakistan relations.

The first passengers across knelt to kiss the ground.

One passenger, Zia Sardar, said: "I think I have achieved the objective of my life. Kashmir is my mother and I am meeting my mother."

The passengers travelling in the opposite direction across the Peace Bridge were greeted by huge crowds on the Pakistani side.

Indian PM Singh and Sonia Gandhi wave off the Srinagar bus
This is the beginning of a new phase in the continuing friendship with Pakistan
Manmohan Singh, Indian PM

Noreen Arif burst into tears as she met her uncle, Raja Nasiruddin, from Indian-controlled Kashmir, for the first time.

"It's just like we've landed in heaven," Mr Nasiruddin said.

The BBC News website's Sanjoy Majumder, in a convoy following the 30 passengers heading to Srinagar, said in every village and town there were people on the streets whistling, cheering and waving.

About 19 passengers were on the Muzaffarabad-bound bus. That bus was flagged off in Srinagar by Mr Singh, who said: "The caravan of peace has started. Nothing can stop it."

Sharif Hussain Bukhari, a passenger heading to Muzaffarabad, said: "The Line of Control could fall like the Berlin Wall."

Militant raid

Earlier, Mr Singh had vowed the buses - and the peace process - would not be stopped by militant attacks.

He said: "These are desperate responses by those who don't want the [peace] dialogue to go ahead."

The tourist centre burned by militants in Srinagar

A spokesman for India's Border Security Force told the Press Trust of India it had discovered and made safe a 3.5kg bomb with a remote control device at Pattan, on the bus route.

Four militant groups, Al-Nasirin, the Save Kashmir Movement, Al-Arifin and Farzandan-e-Millat, have said they carried out an attack on a compound in Srinagar on Wednesday where passengers were being housed.

The building was quickly set on fire and police evacuated the passengers safely. Two rebels were shot dead and three bystanders hurt.

The militant groups issued another statement on Thursday vowing to carry out more attacks.

Our correspondent, Sanjoy Majumder, says the bus service is the latest in a series of peace steps taken by Delhi and Islamabad over the past year.

But long-term observers of South Asian politics are cautious of any major breakthrough in a stand-off that has lasted for more than half a century.

Some point out that neither India nor Pakistan have moved from their positions on Kashmir.

Watch the first buses leave on their historic journeys

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