Wed, Feb 21, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Police in India release sketches of train suspects

TIME OF CRISIS The horrific attack seems to have brought uneasy neighbors India and Pakistan closer together -- if only temporarily


A Pakistani woman embraces her husband who survived Monday's train attack, at Hyderabad railway station in Pakistan yesterday.


Indian police released sketches yesterday of two men suspected of planting a pair of bombs that sparked a fire on a train barreling through northern India for Pakistan, killing 68 people in an attack officials said was intended to disrupt relations between the two countries.

The suspects, whose identities are not known, boarded the train when it left New Delhi on Sunday and soon began arguing with the conductor, saying they were on the wrong train. They were allowed to jump off when the train slowed down about 15 minutes to 20 minutes before the crude bombs detonated, said Sharad Kumar, a senior police official.

The train is supposed to head from New Delhi to Atari, at the Pakistani border, without any stops, and the revelation that two people were allowed to get off appeared to highlight what most passengers already know -- that security on the train and at the stations is cursory at best.

In further signs of lax security, Kumar told reporters that 13 passengers made it to the Pakistani side of Atari without passports, and the Indian Express newspaper reported that two railway ticket clerks have been suspended for selling tickets without checking passengers' passports and visas.

Meanwhile, a drunken Pakistani passenger on the train was detained yesterday for questioning, Indian officials said, although there seemed to be little indication he was involved in the attack.

The man is a resident of Karachi, Pakistan, said Bharti Arora, a senior Haryana state railway police official, declining to provide further details.

The attack appeared intended to disrupt India-Pakistan relations, but following the bombings leaders of the South Asian rivals said they would press ahead with their peace process.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri was expected to arrive in the Indian capital later yesterday for previously scheduled talks.

The fire destroyed two coaches on the Samjhauta Express about an hour after the train left New Delhi on its way to the Pakistan border.

Pakistan quickly decried the attack, and Indian officials took pains to avoid laying any quick blame. Each side appeared to reach out across the border.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared his country's "abhorrence for this heinous terrorist act." Most of the dead were Pakistani.

A Home Ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity said that no suspects had been ruled out -- from Kashmiri separatists to Hindu extremists.

Authorities say two suitcases packed with crude unexploded bombs and bottles of gasoline were found in undamaged train cars, indicating the fire had been sparked by similar devices.

Witnesses described a horrific scene as the train stopped on an isolated stretch of railway near the village of Dewana, about 80km north of New Delhi. The train's driver apparently didn't realize what was happening in the seconds after the blasts, until the assistant station manager in Dewana saw fire shooting from the cars as they sped past and pulled a signal ordering the train to stop.

As on most Indian trains, the windows of many cars are barred for security reasons, sealing in many victims, and officials said at least one door was fused shut by the heat.

The India-Pakistan train link was suspended after a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament that India blamed on Pakistan and which nearly led to a war between the two countries.

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