Bombs rock four Pakistani cities; car bomb in Kashmir

LAHORE, Pakistan - Bombs went off in four Pakistani cities Monday, including a powerful blast that ripped through a crowded market in this eastern border city, police said. Some 45 people were injured.

Meanwhile, in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir - the Himalayan territory disputed between India and Pakistan - a car bomb went off outside army headquarters Monday, killing eight people and wounding 23 others. India blamed Islamic militants for the attack.

A Pakistan-based rebel group called the Jamaat-ul Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the Kashmir explosion in telephone calls to local newspapers. Within hours, a spokesman for the Jaish-e-Mohammad, another guerrilla group, also claimed it had carried out the attack.

In Pakistan, the first bomb ripped through a crowded market in the eastern border city of Lahore, injuring 36 people, while the second bomb exploded at a railway station in Faisalabad, also in eastern Punjab province, wounding three people, they said.

Six people were injured in an explosion on a passenger bus in Hyderabad in the southern Sindh province. A blast in Kharian, 70 miles north of Lahore, did not cause any injuries.

No group claimed responsibility for any of the blasts, but Pakistani police accused arch-rival India of seeking retaliation for last weekend's attack on India's historic Red Fort in the heart of its capital, New Delhi.

Islamic militants from the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba took responsibility for the Red Fort attack that killed three people, including two soldiers.

''We were expecting Indian-sponsored terrorist activities after mujahedeen (holy warriors) hit New Delhi's Red Fort,'' Malik Asif Hayyat, Inspector General of the Punjab Police told The Associated Press.

There was no immediate reaction from India to the accusations.

The explosion in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, caused a fire that destroyed several stalls and shattered glass in nearby buildings in Lunda Bazaar, located near the congested Delhi Gate neighborhood, they said.

The bomb was apparently left in a shopping bag near stalls selling used clothing. The explosion triggered a stampede as fire and smoke billowed from the stores.

The bombing occurred as people were busy shopping for the Muslim festival of Eid-ul Fitr, which follows the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The festival begins on Wednesday.

''I was buying clothes for my children when a deafening bang threw me on the ground,'' said Mohammed Alamgir, 32, one of the victims at a state-run hospital. ''I felt a wave of heat and fire burn my face ... then I don't remember what happened.''

In Faisalabad, located 90 miles west of Lahore, the bomb exploded at a time when there were few people at the railway station, injuring three.

Pakistan has been rocked by dozens of explosions this year killing more than 100 people. Many of the blasts have occurred in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province, which borders its rival and neighbor India.

Police routinely blame India for the attacks, and few people have been arrested in connection with the bombings. Pakistan and India often accuse each other of sponsoring terrorism and each country denies the charge.

Relations between the two countries has never been easy, but in recent years it has deteriorated. The main cause of dissension is Kashmir, divided between the two neighbors after British rule of South Asia ended in 1947.

Both countries lay claim to a united Kashmir.


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