Two bombs exploded aboard a train bound from India to Pakistan, burning to death 64 passengers, officials said on Monday.
NEW DELHI: Two bombs exploded aboard a train bound from India to Pakistan, burning to death 67 passengers, officials said on Monday, with India's government labeling the attack “an act of terror”.
Most victims were Pakistanis, officials said.
Two unexploded homemade bombs were found on the train and the track, with television pictures showing one of them, a large plastic suitcase with wires and a plastic bottle attached.
Officials said the bottle contained a flammable liquid and the apparent intention had been to cause a fire.
“This is what it suggests, that it was an act of terror,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's spokesman Sanjaya Baru said.
Fifty passengers were reported wounded.
Television pictures showed blackened and gutted carriages, with the heat of the fire having peeled the paint off the carriage exteriors.
“It's sabotage -- it's an act of terrorism like the one in Mumbai,” Railways Minister Lalu Prasad told reporters, referring to serial bomb blasts in Mumbai last July that killed 186 people.
“We have recovered two suitcases with dangerous explosive devices,” he said.
The coaches of the Samjhauta Express train, which connects New Delhi to the northern Pakistani city of Lahore, erupted in fire near Panipat town, about 80 km north of Delhi, around midnight on Sunday.
Many windows were barred with iron rods, meaning many people were trapped inside the train.
A survivor said passersby pulled some survivors out of one of the few windows that did not have rods.
“I took a visa to come to India and see relatives, but I never realised it would become the last journey for my family,” said Tara Chand, whose three sons and two daughters are missing and feared dead after the blasts.
He was returning to Pakistan after a month in India.
“I heard a loud explosion and then it was all smoke,” he said. “Looking at the intensity of the smoke, many people must have suffocated to death before being charred.”
The incident comes days before Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri is due in New Delhi for talks with Indian leaders to push forward a slow-moving peace process between the old rivals.
“Most of the people are Pakistanis, but the casualties did include some Indian security personnel,” the chief secretary of the Haryana state government Prem Prashant said.
Pakistan's government said it was in touch with Indian authorities and was collecting information, confirming that most of the dead were Pakistani.
Home Secretary VK Duggal held a meeting with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon in the wake of the blasts.