A car bomb exploded Wednesday in the main business district of Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s Jammu-Kashmir state, killing at least two people and injuring 40, officials said.
Heavy gun fire was heard soon after the explosion; it was not clear who was firing at whom.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, but suspicion fell on Islamic rebels who have been fighting for independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan since 1989. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the violence.
Deputy Inspector General of Police H.K. Lohia said two people were killed and 40 were injured, including pedestrians, bank employees, soldiers and a state lawmaker, Usman Majid, who was driving past the bank at the time.
Police said Majid was the likely target of the attack. A former counterinsurgency expert, he had assisted security forces in anti-militant operations before joining politics.
Pandemonium after blasts
Television stations showed pictures of pandemonium with confused people and security forces milling around.
Many cars, motorcycles and bicycles were damaged in the powerful blast near the four-story corporate headquarters of the state-owned Jammu-Kashmir Bank Ltd. in the Lal Chowk area. Located in the heart of Srinagar, Lal Chowk is usually crowded with office workers and shoppers.
It was the second most devastating terrorist strike in Srinagar this year. A similar car bombing, also in Lal Chowk, killed six people in July.
The street near the bank was covered with shrapnel from shattered windscreens of cars and buses. Several women wailed and beat their chests, looking for missing relatives.
Outside the bank, cars rammed into each other as people tried to get away from the area. Along the street lined with Chinar trees, orange leaves flew off the trees with the force of the blast, carpeting the street.
Lohia said the bomb was fashioned from a land mine placed in a car. Large metallic, mangled chunks of the destroyed car were strewn at the front gate of the bank.
The explosion occurred near the area where on Tuesday militants attacked a police compound, killing four people. The rebels later holed up in a hotel for 24 hours before one was captured and the other killed by security forces.