Chief Minister of Punjab, 10 Others, Killed in Bomb Blast
CHANDIGARH, India (AP) _ A powerful bomb blew up the car of the chief minister of the northern state of Punjab today, killing him and 10 others outside the government headquarters.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on Sikh militants. Chief Minister Beant Singh crushed a decade-long uprising by Sikh separatists after he took office three years ago.
Singh was getting into his bulletproof car outside the 10-story state government headquarters building in the capital, Chandigarh, when the bomb went off, Information Secretary S.S. Dawra told The Associated Press.
Singh’s car and two other vehicles were ripped apart in the blast. Most of the dead were Singh’s armed guards, and their mutilated bodies were flung all over the concrete porch of the state secretariat building, police and witnesses said.
Police earlier had said 13 people were killed, but later revised the number to 11.
The bomb went off as people were preparing to leave the building in the evening and it caused panic. The blast was so powerful that all the window panes broke.
Three years ago, a bomb went off near the chief minister’s office, damaging many cars. Singh was unhurt.
A moderate politician of the Congress Party, the national governing party, Singh came to power in the 1992 state legislature elections that ended years of federal rule. He immediately began crushing the Sikh separatist rebellion, giving police sweeping powers.
Today’s bombing could weaken Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s claim that Punjab has become an oasis of peace as he prepares for nationwide general elections.
Rao also has been under pressure from the Congress Party to hold elections in the neighboring state of Jammu-Kashmir, where a seemingly intractable war between soldiers and Kashmiri militants has left 12,000 people dead in the last five years.