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The BBC's Altaf Hussein in Srinagar
"The first major attack in Srinagar for almost three years"
 real 28k

The BBC's Satish Jacob
"A large number of soldiers and policemen had come to the bank to collect their salaries"
 real 56k

Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes
"Pakistan had been itching for this"
 real 28k

Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Militants admit Kashmir blast
Blast site
The blast caused massive damage
The pro-Pakistan militant group, the Hizbul Mujahideen, has said it carried out Thursday's deadly car bomb attack in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.

The blast is now known to have killed at least 15 people and injured more than 30. Most of the dead were policemen and soldiers.

Security personnel
Security personnel inspect the car seconds before the blast
A spokesman for the separatists, Salim Hashemi, said the attack was the first in a campaign to step up operations against the Indian security forces.

Just two days earlier, the group called off a ceasefire after talks with India broke down.

Mr Hashemi accused the Indian Government of delaying tactics and described the attack as a "stunning blow".

The Indian authorities have condemned it as a barbaric act.

Pakistan had been itching for this kind of situation to develop

Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes
Defence Minister George Fernandes said the attack was not unexpected, and reiterated his country's accusations that Pakistan was sponsoring violence in the region.

"Pakistan had been itching for this kind of situation to develop," he told the BBC. "They worked towards it. They seem to be scared of having to put up with peace."

Another militant group, the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba, had earlier said it was responsible for both blasts, but soon withdrew its claim.

It was blamed earlier this month for a series of massacres that left more than 90 people dead in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Two blasts

Thursday's bomb was planted under a car parked outside a branch of the State Bank of India where security forces were collecting their pay.

It went off 20 minutes after militants lobbed a grenade, apparently to attract soldiers and police.

The explosion destroyed half a dozen cars, damaged nearby shops and buildings and blew a hole in the wall surrounding the bank.

Many of those who rushed to the scene died of burns. Those killed included a photo-journalist for the Hindustan Times, Pradeep Bhatia. Four other journalists were wounded.

Andrew Drake, a journalist working for Associated Press, was nearby when the second explosion occurred.

"There was a loud blast about 30 feet (10 metres) down the street... It looked like something had been hidden in a heap of rubbish beside the wall," he said.

"There were at least six bodies lying there."

Ceasefire ends

The Hizbul Mujahideen called off their two-week-old ceasefire on Tuesday, blaming the Indian Government for a lack of progress towards peace in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Pradeep Bhatia
Killed in the blast: Pradeep Bhatia
The group said India had refused to enter three-way peace talks with the Kashmiri leadership and Pakistan.

However, the Indian Government says it is still ready for talks on Kashmir, despite the breakdown of the truce.

The Hizbul Mujahideen ceasefire, and the start of talks with the government, had for the first time in a decade raised hopes of a breakthrough in the separatist fight in Indian-administered Kashmir, which has claimed more than 25,000 lives.

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See also:

09 Aug 00 | South Asia
India 'ready' for Kashmir talks
03 Aug 00 | South Asia
Kashmir talks make progress
02 Aug 00 | South Asia
Kashmir spirals into violence
02 Aug 00 | South Asia
Who are the Kashmir militants?
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