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Bus Bomb Explosion in Indian Kashmir Kills 4 - 2003-03-13

In Indian Kashmir, an explosion on a passenger bus has killed four people, and left nearly 20 others injured. Police say the bus was parked at a terminus in the border town of Rajouri when a fire ripped through it following a powerful blast.

Panicked commuters ran for cover. Most of those injured were standing close to the bus. The bus had arrived from a village in Rajouri district, and was about to leave for Jammu, Kashmir's winter capital about 80 kilometers away.

Soon after the blast, angry residents took to the streets, pelting stones at security forces and chanting anti-government slogans. They were protesting what they said was the failure of the security forces to protect people in the town. The army has been deployed to maintain order.

This was the second blast in the town this week. On Tuesday, an explosion in a busy market killed one person and wounded several others. Police say suspected Islamic militants had placed a bomb in an empty milk container outside a shop.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the latest incident, but police suspect Muslim separatists planted a bomb in the bus before it arrived in Rajouri town.

A new regional government took power in Kashmir last October, promising to restore peace in the insurgency-wracked region. The violence, however, has continued unabated.

There have been many civilian victims among the 35,000 people who have been killed in Kashmir since the insurgency erupted in 1989. In the early years of the fighting, the Kashmir valley was the main focus of violence - but in recent years Islamic militants have targeted towns and cities in other parts of Kashmir.

India controls part of predominately Muslim Kashmir, and Pakistan controls the rest. Nearly a dozen Islamic militant groups are fighting in Indian-controlled Kashmir for either an independent state or a merger with Pakistan. India blames Pakistan for supporting the separatist militants, a charge Pakistan denies.