Just two days before Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra's arrival in Jammu, the city was rocked by two blasts in Narwal area that injured nine on Saturday.
The two explosions took place within 15 minutes in Jammu's busy Transport Nagar area of Narwal. The first blast occurred around 10.45 am, followed by another explosion, an official said, adding that the whole area was cordoned off and a search operation underway.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police suspects that IEDs were used to carry out the twin explosions in an SUV parked in a repair shop and in a vehicle at a nearby junkyard at Transport Nagar area of Narwal.
The suspected terrorist attack come three weeks after seven people were killed in firing and an IED blast in a village in Rajouri district in Jammu region. In contrast to the restive Kashmir Valley, the Jammu region has been relatively peaceful in recent years.
What we know of blasts so far
Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha strongly condemned the incident and called for urgent steps to take action against those responsible.
Additional Director General (ADG) of Police Mukesh Singh said, “A blast occurred in an old, parked Bolero (Sports Utility Vehicle) around 11 am resulting in injuries to five people who were standing nearby. They were evacuated to hospital and their condition is stable.”
He said the whole area was immediately cleared of the people but in the meantime another blast occurred 50 metres away, causing minor injuries to one more person who was also shifted to hospital.
Singh added, “Further investigation is on.”
However, a total of nine persons were brought with splinter injuries to Government Medical College (GMC) hospital following the blasts.
“We have received nine patients with one having abdominal injuries and two others fractured legs. The condition of all of them is stable,” said a doctor at the hospital.
Blast comes amid high alert
The blasts were triggered by suspected terrorists at a time when security agencies in the region are on high alert in the wake of the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra of the Congress and the upcoming Republic Day.
The Yatra entered J&K’s Kathua district on Thursday evening via Punjab and is camping in Chadwal, about 70 km from Jammu. After a day's break on Saturday, the Yatra, which commenced from Kanyakumari on September 7, is scheduled to resume from Hiranagar on Sunday and reach Jammu on January 23 after starting from Vijaypur in Samba district.
An official identified the injured as Suhail Iqbal, Vishav Partap, Vinod Kumar, Arjun Kumar, Amit Kumar, Rajesh Kumar and Aneesh –all residents of Jammu- and Sushil Kumar of Doda.
The officials said the whole area was cordoned off by joint teams of police and CRPF immediately after the first explosion which was followed by another blast 15 minutes later. They added that a thorough sanitisation operation was carried out and forensic experts, bomb disposal squad and sniffer dogs were also pressed into service to look for clues.
What have eyewitnesses said?
Jaswinder Singh, an eyewitness, said the first blast occurred in a vehicle that was at a workshop for repair.
About 15 minutes later, another explosion took place in the area littered with damaged parts and garbage, said Singh, President of the Motor Spare Parts Association.
Raj Kumar said he was working on another vehicle when the blast ripped apart another parked vehicle.
“We initially thought that the petrol tank of some vehicle exploded but the blast was so powerful that it blew up the vehicle,” said Kumar.
Political reactions to Jammu blasts
An official spokesman said senior police officials briefed the Lt Governor.
“Such dastardly acts highlight the desperation and cowardice of those responsible. Take immediate and firm action. No efforts should be spared to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the Lt Governor said.
Sinha also announced assistance of Rs 50,000 to the injured. The Lt Governor said that the administration would ensure the best possible treatment and extend every help required by the families.
Congress MP and AICC inchage J-K Rajani Patil strongly condemned the twin blasts.
Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir AAP state coordination committee Harsh Dev Singh accused the BJP of complete failure in improving the security situation in the Union Territory.
“The day the BJP government took over, the situation in J&K is getting from bad to worse. Terrorism is increasing with each passing day and is returning to 1990s,” Singh alleged.
“They were stating that not a bird was killed after the abrogation of Article 370 but the reality is that innocent men, women and children are getting killed. The BJP has to give answers not only to J-K but to the entire nation,” he told reporters.
(With PTI inputs)