A suicide bomber detonated his car in Indian-controlled Kashmir Wednesday, killing four people and injuring at least 15 others near the state's summer capital of Srinagar. A Pakistani-based militant group asserted responsibility for the blast, which came just four days after near-simultaneous bombings killed 59 people in the Indian capital, New Delhi.
The latest attack was apparently timed to coincide with the swearing-in of the state's new chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad. As the driver of the vehicle approached a checkpoint, police officers ordered him to stop, but he refused. One officer tried to block his way, the Press Trust of India reported, and the bomber blew up the vehicle, killing the policeman and three others.
Vehicle parts and shoes were strewn across the road near the site of the explosion, about nine miles from the convention center where Azad was sworn in a few hours later, the Reuters news agency reported.
In a phone call to a local news agency, a man who said he was a spokesman for the Pakistani organization Jaish-e-Mohammed asserted responsibility for the blast. "The car bomb is our first gift to Ghulam Nabi Azad," the caller said, according to the Press Trust.
Jaish-e-Mohammed is one of several Pakistan-based militant groups fighting Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan province. It once operated openly in Pakistan but was banned by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, as part of his crackdown on extremist groups following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. India has accused Jaish-e-Mohammed and another group of attacking its parliament building in December 2001.
Wednesday's attack was considered likely to increase pressure on Musharraf to move more vigorously against Islamic extremists in Pakistan. In a telephone conversation with Musharraf this week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said there were indications that Saturday's bombings of two crowded markets in New Delhi and a bus also were the work of Pakistan-based extremists.
Since early 2004, the nuclear-armed neighbors have been engaged in a peace process aimed at settling their historic differences over Kashmir and other matters. The massive Oct. 8 earthquake, which is now thought to have killed more than 70,000 people in Pakistan, has given a modest boost to those efforts. On Sunday, Indian and Pakistani officials agreed to open relief camps for earthquake victims along the cease-fire line that separates their forces in Kashmir.
In Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday that Musharraf had assured the Indian leader of Pakistan's cooperation in tracking down those responsible for the weekend bombings in New Delhi.