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We will not allow peace process to be derailed: Lalu

BEYOND WORDS: A grief-stricken Israel Mohammed waits at the Old Delhi railway station for news of his parents and brother who were travelling on the Samjhauta Express, two coaches of which were ripped apart by bomb explosions near Panipat just before midnight on Sunday. The charred wreck of a bogie. Relatives at the Civil Hospital in Panipat trying to identify the victims. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad inspecting the damaged coaches at the blast site.

BEYOND WORDS: A grief-stricken Israel Mohammed waits at the Old Delhi railway station for news of his parents and brother who were travelling on the Samjhauta Express, two coaches of which were ripped apart by bomb explosions near Panipat just before midnight on Sunday. The charred wreck of a bogie. Relatives at the Civil Hospital in Panipat trying to identify the victims. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad inspecting the damaged coaches at the blast site.   | Photo Credit: Photos: AFP, PTI, R.V. Moorthy

Special Correspondent

Sabotage suspected in the Samjhauta Express tragedy; "Whoever is behind it will be caught and punished"

Ex gratia of Rs. 10 lakh to the next of kin of dead and Rs. 50,000 to the injured31-year-old train link has come under terror attack for first time

NEW DELHI: Asserting that those behind the ghastly incident would be severely punished, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav said on Monday prima facie sabotage was suspected in the Samjhauta Express tragedy that killed 67 people and injured 50, including four Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel.

Mr. Yadav, who rushed to the site of the incident along with senior officials, said the train tragedy was an attempt to destabilise the on-going peace process between India and Pakistan. "The intentions are very clear. It is an attempt to disrupt strengthening of smooth relations between the two countries. But this will further strengthen our resolve to carry forward not only the peace process but also defeat such forces which target innocent citizens. We will not allow the peace process to be detailed," he said after visiting the site of the incident and the injured in hospital. The tragedy comes on the eve of talks between Indian and Pakistan Foreign Ministers Pranab Mukherjee and Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri here.

Asked if Pakistan's ISI was behind the blast, the Railway Minister, said: "Whoever is behind it will be caught and punished." Mr. Yadav said the railway staff posted at Deewana station heard "explosions". "Two suitcases full of explosives have been found. This confirms that sabotage was the cause of the tragedy," he added.

The idea appeared to be causing fire as it spreads faster in a moving train. There was no specific intelligence input regarding such an incident.

He said special passes would be issued to Pakistani nationals who wish to come and claim the bodies of their kin. He announced an ex gratia of Rs. 10 lakh to the next of kin of dead and Rs. 50,000 to the injured. The families of the Indian citizens who lost their lives in the incident would be provided a job in the Railways.

The Railway Minister also visited the Civil Hospital, Panipat, and the Safdarjung Hospital here to meet the injured. Not ruling out a security lapse, Mr. Yadav said there was no equipment available to check what was inside the luggage.

"Though metal detectors are installed at various stations we do not have the equipment to check what is inside the luggage. We cannot deny that a security lapse might have occurred. We will not indulge in any kind of cover-up and concede if any wrong has been done by the Railways," he said.

He said four railway personnel were also killed in the blasts and promised all possible help to the families of the victims of the blasts. Mr. Yadav, who flew to Panipat by a helicopter, opted to travel back to Delhi by train.

Probe ordered

The Railways ordered an inquiry into the attack. The Haryana Government along with its forensic experts, and Central investigation agencies have undertaken separate enquiries.

It is for the first time in the 31-year history of the oldest train link between India and Pakistan that it has come under terror attack. The bi-weekly train service was discontinued only twice since it began operating on July 22,1976. It runs on Tuesdays and Fridays between Delhi and Attari in India. The passengers are then transported to the Samjhauta Express for their journey to Lahore in Pakistan through the Wagah border.

A special platform at Attari caters to passengers in the special train and those coming from Lahore on the Samjhauta Express after they have gone through customs and immigration clearance.

The train runs non-stop from Delhi to Attari and stops at Ambala station for change of driver and guard.

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