Terror attack : Samjhauta Express blasted, 66 killed

via Kaumudi published on February 19, 2007

CHANDIGARH: In a suspected terror attack, at least 66 people, including Pakistani nationals, were killed and 13 others injured in explosions in two coaches of Delhi-Attari special train around midnight here.


Northern Railway General Manager V N Mathur told reporters here that he suspected sabotage as two IED-laden suitcases, one from the rail track and another from the train, were found.


One of them also had incendiary material, either petrol or kerosene which could have set the train afire, he said, adding that a railway gateman told him that he heard two “distinct” explosions as the train entered the Diwana station near Panipat, about 100 kms from Delhi.


The bi-weekly train, connecting Indo-Pak Samjhauta Express, had left Delhi at 10:40 pm yesterday night for Attari near Amritsar and two of its bogies caught fire immediately after the explosions in which at least 66 people, including some Pakistanis returning home from India, were killed.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed anguish and grief over the train tragedy and said the culprits will be caught, a PMO spokesman said.


Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said in Patna before leaving for the blast site that “the intention behind the incident is clear — it is an attempt to derail the improving ties between India and Pakistan. “Innocent people have been killed.”


The blasts come a day ahead of a three-day visit of Pakistan foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri to India to hold talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and attend the meeting of Indo-Pak joint commission.


The identification of the dead, who included women, was difficult as the bodies were charred beyond recognition in the fire that followed the explosions, Superintendent of Police (Panipat) Mohinder Singh Sheoran said.


A senior police officer said a Pakistani national Shamsuddin, who was travelling in the train, has given information to the police regarding some explosives being planted in it. Police is talking to the passenger.


Thirteen people with severe burn injuries were shifted to Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi, railway officials said. Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who visited the spot, said explosives were used in the incident, which was aimed at “disturbing peace and spoiling” India’s relationship with other countries.


The Railway Minister said a statutory probe has been ordered and compensation as per the railway rules would be paid to the next of the kin of the victims.


Prasad also identified the railway protection force personnel killed as Swarna Singh, Kashmira Singh and Rajender Singh. After detachment of the two burnt bogies, the remaining compartments of the train carrying around 500 passengers left for Attari after a thorough check by security personnel.


Meanwhile, security on board various trains and at railway stations in Punjab have been put on alert following the incident, ADGP railway Chandershekhar said in Ludhiana.


The checking of trains coming from Jammu has been ordered to be stepped up, he said. The security for the Delhi-Lahore and Amritsar-Lahore buses was also being beefed up.


Forensic experts from Madhuban near Karnal had been summoned.


The two coaches, where all the deaths took place, were completely gutted and only the charred remains were visible. After detaching those two coaches, the rest of the train left for Attari via Wagah.


Superintendent of Police (Panipat) Mohinder Singh Sheoran said that forensic experts from Madhuban were summoned. A senior police officer said a Pakistani national has also given information to police regarding some explosive being planted in the train.


The official said Shamshuddin, the Pak national, was travelling in the train. Two railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel, who were on duty in the two compartments were missing, he said adding that it was suspected that they could be among the dead.


The train runs non-stop from Delhi to Attari where the passengers are shifted to the Samjhauta Express, which goes to Lahore after customs and immigration clearances.


The train only has operational halts at some stations, including Ludhiana and no passenger can alight or board it enrooted.


The train runs non-stop from Delhi to Attari where the passengers are shifted to the Samjhauta Express, which goes to Lahore after customs and immigration clearances.


The train only has operational halts at some stations, including Ludhiana and no passenger can alight or board it en-route.


A woman travelling in the train recounted that there was a sudden ball of fire in the train as it moved in its normal speed with most of the passengers asleep. A Saharanpur resident, Zubaida, who was going to Karachi in Pakistan, said that around midnight there was noise and shouts of fire from the passengers.


“Initially I and other passengers failed to understand as to what had happened,” she told PTI at the railway station in Ambala where the train made a special halt.


Zubaida, who was travelling in the three-tier sleeper bogie adjacent to the one which was burnt said, “After seeing outside I and other passengers found that the bogies behind ours were on fire”.

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