NATIONAL

President condemns attack

NEW DELHI NOV. 24. The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, tonight telephoned the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, and got a brief on the situation in Jammu in the wake of the terrorist strike on Raghunath Temple.

Condemning the attack, Dr. Kalam expressed confidence that security forces would be able to contain the damage and protect human life.

"It is a matter of serious concern that this is the second time in recent times that a place of worship is being attacked by terrorists," he said in a statement, in an apparent reference to the terrorist strike on Akshardham Temple in Gujarat in September.

The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, expressed deep shock and anguish over the temple attack. Terming it "barbaric", she hoped that normality would be restored at the earliest inside the temple.

`Pak.-sponsored'

Terming the attack as part of a "Pakistan-sponsored terrorist design", the BJP president, Venkaiah Naidu, today demanded that the Central and the State Governments take "stern" steps to combat the menace.

The J&K Government should do a rethink on the disbanding of the Special Operations Group, releasing militants from jail and not using POTA against terrorists, he told presspersons.

The CPI(M) said the attack was part of the retaliatory action in the context of the happenings in Gujarat. "Temples are being made soft targets and we should be more vigilant and foil such attacks," the party politburo member, Prakash Karat, said.

`Barbaric'

In Jammu and Kashmir, the Governor, G.C. Saxena, and the Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, condemned the attack and described it as "barbaric" and against the teachings of religions.

Mr. Saxena appealed to the people to remain calm and united to defeat the designs of the terrorists and their foreign mentors to provoke a communal backlash.

Expressing profound shock over the "despicable" and "outrageous" act of terrorism, Mr. Sayeed said those who were involved in the heinous crime would not be spared. He asked police and security forces to deal with such elements with a firm hand. — PTI