A teenager was killed and 32 others injured when a powerful blast ripped through a crowded bus stand in the heart of Jammu city on Thursday, officials said.
Muhammad Sharik, 17, a resident of Hardiwar, Uttarakhand, who was among 33 people brought to a hospital following the explosion at around 11.50am, succumbed to splinter injuries in his chest, they said.
The condition of four other injured persons is “critical” and two of them are being operated upon by doctors in a bid to save their lives, the officials said.
An official source said a grenade was lobbed under a Pathankot-bound Punjab Roadways bus bearing registration number PB35Q-9697. “The blast was so powerful that it damaged windowpanes of another bus bearing registration number PB08ED-0792 and a Jammu and Kashmir road transport corporation bus bearing registration number JK02Y-0536. Following the blast, all damaged vehicles were immediately shifted and the area was sealed,” the source said.
Giving details about the explosion, Jammu inspector general of police Manish Kumar Sinha said: “At 11.50am, there was a grenade blast at general bus stand Jammu, in which unfortunately we lost one civilian (Muhammad Sharik) while 32 other persons were injured.”
The injured persons include 11 residents of Kashmir, 10 from Jammu province, nine from other states including Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Haryana, while two persons are yet to be identified,” the IGP said.
He said that as soon as they came to know about the blast, the police swung into action and along with civilians evacuated the injured to the government medical college and hospital, where they were treated by the doctors.
“Unfortunately Sharik could not survive a surgery that was conducted on him and succumbed,” Sinha said.
He said teams of police were instantly constituted and asked to “go into the evidence available and work on the leads”.
“The teams visited the spot and tried to assess from the witnesses as to what they had seen, while the recording of CCTV cameras installed in the area was also taken into custody,” he said.
“Based on the oral testimony of the witnesses and the CCTV footages, the police were able to identify a suspect, who was wearing a jeans jacket and carrying a red rucksack,” the IGP said, adding: “An alert was sent to all checkpoints in Jammu to see if any person with the given details is moving out of the winter capital.”
“A team led by sub-divisional police officer Nagrota and station house officer Nagrota, which was on a naka duty, apprehended the suspected boy at Ban Toll Plaza, when he was trying to move out,” he said.
The IGP said on his sustained questioning, the accused confessed to his crime and “revealed that he was tasked with throwing the grenade by Farooq Ahmed Bhat alias Umar, a district commander of HizbulMujahideen in Kulgam district.”
The accused was identified as YasirJavedBhat alias Arhan of Khanpura-Dasan area in Kulgam district of southern Kashmir.
“During his preliminary interrogation, the accused revealed that he had started from Kulgam with grenade yesterday (Thursday) and reached Jammu this morning. We are also collecting his past history and details from the local police stations,” Sinha said.
Earlier, the IGP said there is always a possibility of someone slipping through despite the heightened alert.
“Whenever there is a heightened state of alert, we strengthen checking and frisking but there is always a possibility of someone slipping through and this one seems to be a case like that,” the IGP said. Immediately after the explosion, people ran for safety.
The police parties, along with sniffer dogs and forensic experts, rushed to the spot and launched a search operation to nab the attackers, the officials said.
This is the third grenade blast in Jammu bus stand in less than a year.
Earlier, on December 28 last year, a grenade attack was carried out on the bus stand with the intention to target a local police station, officials said.
Another grenade attack took place along the BC Road and left two policemen and a civilian injured on May 24, 2018.
Meanwhile, a National Investigation Agency team Thursday reached Jammu’s main bus stand where a grenade attack left one man dead and over 30 others injured, news agency IANS reported.
Quoting “sources in the agency”, the report said the NIA team rushed to the spot soon after getting information about the blast that occurred around 11.30am.