India-Pakistan Peace Talks Seen as Train Bombs' Target
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
DEWANA, India, Feb. 19 -- Leaders of India and Pakistan pressed ahead Monday with their peace process, hours after twin bombings -- apparently intended to disrupt bilateral relations -- sparked a fire that killed 67 people aboard a train that links the two countries.
The fire destroyed two coaches on the Samjhauta Express, about an hour after the train left New Delhi on its way to the Pakistani border. Officials said the attack was timed ahead of the arrival of Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, expected Tuesday in the Indian capital.
Two suitcases packed with crude unexploded bombs and bottles of gasoline were found in undamaged train cars, indicating the fire had been sparked by similar devices, authorities said.
Witnesses described a horrific scene as the train stopped near the village of Dewana, about 50 miles north of New Delhi. The train's driver apparently did not realize what was happening in the seconds after the blasts, until the assistant station manager in Dewana saw fire shooting from the cars as they sped past.
"I saw flames leaping out of the windows," said Vinod Kumar Gupta, who pulled the signal ordering the train to stop. The train -- which normally races through this region at about 55 to 60 mph -- took five minutes to stop.
As on most Indian trains, the windows of many cars are barred, sealing in many victims, and officials said at least one door was fused shut by the heat.
"We couldn't save anyone," said Rajinder Prasad, a laborer who raced with his neighbors to the scene, scooping water from a reservoir and throwing it at flames. "They were screaming inside, but no one could get out."