Time bomb explodes in Kashmir oil depot

The Jerusalem Post

26 March 2003

A bomb exploded Wednesday in an empty oil tanker outside a fuel storage area in disputed Jammu-Kashmir, killing the vehicle's driver, but police said a greater disaster was averted thanks to a labor strike that prevented the vehicle from entering the depot.

The time bomb exploded in the driver's cabin minutes after the truck reached the Indian Oil Corp. depot, a police officer said on condition of anonymity. The driver died on the scene and six people were injured, police said.

Police suspect Islamic separatists planted the bomb and that they intended it to blow up the depot. But the facility was closed due to the strike and the truck-tanker was not allowed inside, the officer said.

The vehicle had come from the Punch district _ 130 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Jammu _ where there is an extensive militant presence.

Police gave no immediate information about the driver.

The nationwide strike at state-run oil companies was called to protest the government's move to privatize two of its profit-making oil companies, which employ tens of thousands of people.

The attack came two days after suspected Islamic militants killed 24 Hindus in a village in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state.

More than a dozen Islamic guerrilla groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence, or its merger with mostly Muslim Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of funding, training and arming the guerrillas who have fought the 13-year insurgency in which more than 61,000 people have died. Pakistan says it supports the militants' cause, but gives them no material aid.

The South Asian nuclear rivals have fought two of their three wars over control of the Himalayan province, which both claim in its entirety.