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October 2, 2001
0110 IST

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Bomb blast at J&K assembly
entrance, 29 killed, 40 hurt

Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar

A massive explosion near the main entrance of the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly on Monday afternoon left at least 29 persons dead and 40 injured.

Two militants firing from automatics later stormed the heavily-guarded assembly complex.

Those killed included five policemen, two Central Reserve Police Force jawans, a schoolgirl and six state assembly employees.

Eyewitnesses said a suicide bomber drove a jeep laden with explosives up to the main entrance of the state assembly. Shortly after, the jeep exploded into a massive ball of fire leaving behind a trail of death and destruction.

Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based militant group, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

The state assembly was in session when the blast occurred.

Immediately after the blast, security forces spirited away assembly speaker Abdul Ahmad Vakil to safety.

Talking to rediff.com, Vakil said: "I was sitting with some guests from Sopore when I heard a big bang. There was heavy firing after the explosion and everybody took shelter in the office complex."

He said that there was heavy firing from all sides, while he was being escorted out.

"Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah and other members of the assembly had left at 1 pm. The blast occurred at 1.50 pm," Vakil said.

"The blast shook our building. Window panes were shattered," said Farooq Mir, an employee of the Ellaquai Dehati Bank, a few blocks away from the site of the explosion.

Sources said the militants drove up to the main entrance in a white Tata Sumo. "They may have hijacked the vehicle and then loaded it with explosives," a senior police officer said.

One report said the Sumo belonged to the telecommunications department. Police, however, said they were still investigating.

"I saw two militants coming towards the main assembly building firing from automatics in all directions," said Abdul Ahad, an employee of the state assembly. "Several of my colleagues were killed," Ahad, who was evacuated by commondos, added.

The militants, holed up inside the high-security complex, kept firing intermittently till late evening when special squad commandos gunned them down.

Sources said bodies of the two militants have been recovered. "Both were wearing police uniforms," said one official.

Several ambulances were pressed into service to shift the injured to hospitals. Vehicles carrying reinforcements were seen going towards the assembly complex.

Security forces this evening shelled the complex and a part of the main assembly building caught fire. Fire tenders were immediately rushed to the spot.

The complex will be searched on Tuesday morning. Police say bodies of some assembly employees are still inside.

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