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Monday, July 30, 2012

FSL team notices clear signs of ‘grenade explosion’

Officials under pressure to hide source of Bijbehara blast till Yatra end

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 29: Ballistic experts of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) Srinagar today collected samples of Saturday’s explosion on a tourist bus in Bijbehara that had left three women from Mumbai dead and five more injured. Even as the FSL’s prima facie observation is “an explosive device” (grenade or IED), officials associated with the investigation have been barred from revealing source of the blast till the end of the annual Amarnath pilgrimage next week.

Well-placed authoritative sources disclosed to Early Times that the FSL team today collected necessary samples from the damaged Tempo Traveler as well as from the site of yesterday’s blast. Although conclusive findings would be available only after a thorough ballistic and forensic analysis, the FSL team, according to sources, noticed “clear signs of an explosive device” (grenade or IED). “There are no indications of an LPG cylinder blast”, said a source associated with the investigation. He said that all the officials had been immediately barred from revealing source of the blast till next weekend.

The state government, according to sources, was keen to hide details and findings of the FSL analysis and Police investigation till winding up of Amarnath Yatra. “There are apprehensions that revelation of the source as grenade or IED could scare away pilgrims and tourists”, said a senior official. He said that revelation of source could also come as a negative commentary on the security bandobust put in place for a bustling tourist and pilgrim season. On the other hand, theory of an LPG cylinder blast also soothes all actors across the divided political spectrum in Kashmir---from NC to PDP and Congress to Hurriyat.

According to these sources, even the doctors who treated the injured at SKIMS since yesterday and also those who performed post mortem of the three dead bodies at Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial (JLNM) Hospital Rainawari today, had observed, beyond any confusion, that the ill-fated female tourists had been victims of an explosive device. As already reported, two women traveling on the Jammu-based Tempo Traveler had died on spot and six others of the group had sustained injuries in the mysterious blast. Later, one more woman died while under treatment at SKIMS.

Sources at SKIMS today described the condition of a 70-year-old woman, namely Indira Parvathi as “critical”. They said that she was comatose since the timing of the blast on Saturday. Admitted and under supervision at Surgical ICU, Indira has been described as a patient of polytrauma subdural hemorrhage (SDH). “She has multiple injuries on whole body but her head injuries are grave”, said a doctor. He said that her coma scale (GCS) was just 4 out of the normal reading of 15, suggesting that prospects of her survival were bleak. Officials said that her family members today arrived in from Mumbai.

Doctors said that remaining four of the female tourists group had sustained minor injuries. They were still under supervision but being discharged in the morning on Monday. Sources said that they would be all returning home by a Srinagar-Mumbai flight tomorrow.

Taking the first of its kind explosion this Yatra and tourist season seriously, IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, today drove all the way to SOG camp at Sangham, Bijbehara, and he questioned a number of eyewitnesses and probable evidences with regard to the blast. Among others, he quizzed driver of the ill-fated bus, Ashok Kumar of Udhampur, who narrated details of his journey from Jammu to Katra (Vaishnu Devi temple) and Katra to Bijbehara. IGP took a meeting with senior officials, including DIG South Kashmir and all SPs, asking them to ensure that incidents like Saturday’s in Bijbehara did not occur till conclusion of Amarnath pilgrimage next week.

Sources said that Police had been already on the high alert as one particular militant outfit had been repeatedly asking its commanders over a radio network since last fortnight to attack either a tourist carriage or a pilgrims’ vehicle.

Sources said that the investigators found some conflicting facts in the driver’s statement but collected graphic details of the all-female group’s journey from Khannabal to Bijbehara and Zirpora. It became clear that the vehicle had halted for about 25 minutes at Sharma Veshnu Dhaba in Bijbehara where the tourists sipped tea and the driver took his lunch. Two members of the group also desired to take meals but they did not like its quality and were content with just a cup of tea. Owner of the Dhaba was also quizzed by Police today. Sources said that the investigators were trying to find if anybody had planted an IED on the bus while it remained parked on the highway.

Holding investigation of FIR No: 232 dated 28-07-2012, under section 3/5 of Explosive Substances Act, investigators today learned that the Police deployment across the Padshahi Bagh bridge on the river Jhelum at Bijbehara had disappeared from the spot immediately after the Holy Mace passed towards Mattan yesterday. It became clear today that the Pahalgam-bound Tempo Traveler, having diverted through Bijbehara-Srigufwara-Sallar route, was negotiating two speed-breakers after zipping past Government Higher Secondary School at Zirpora, when the blast occurred in it.

Sources said that putting the LPG cylinder theory at No: 3, investigators in their preliminary investigation were now zeroing in between a grenade that could have been lobbed into the vehicle at its lowest speed on the two speed-breakers and a timer-fitted IED that could have been planted on board when the carriage was parked for a tea or lunch break.


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