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Briefing by MEA Official Spokesperson on the blasts in Delhi-Attari Express

New Delhi
February 19, 2007 

Official Spokesperson: Good afternoon everybody. We have a statement, some of which has already been conveyed to you earlier on during the day, but to put it all together…

Government of India strongly condemns the blasts in Train No. 4001 Delhi-Attari Express (link train of Samjhauta Express) at around mid-night of 18-19 February 2007. Two of the 16 coaches caught fire. At least 64 people were killed in the fire and several others injured. The cause of the fire is being investigated. Our immediate priority is to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the tragedy. The injured have been taken to hospitals in Panipat and in Delhi. The dead include a number of Pakistanis, many of them burnt beyond recognition. They are being identified with the help of the Pakistani authorities. A team of officials from Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi is on its way, and possibly already there now in Panipat.

The passport numbers of the passengers in the unreserved coaches affected by the explosions have been sent to Pakistani authorities for assistance in identification of the dead.

Visas will be issued to relatives of the dead and injured by the High Commission of India in Islamabad, which will set up a visa camp in Lahore for this purpose. We will also arrange for their travel from Attari/Wagah to Panipat and to Delhi. Two officials from Pakistan Railways are also expected to come to Attari to assist the passengers who have by now reached Attari.

We convey our heartfelt condolences to the victims of this gruesome tragedy. Government will make every effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous act.

As you can see this is a developing situation and we may have updates later, which we will keep giving you. I am not really in a position to take too many questions after what I have said.

Question: Are you seeing it as a terrorist attack? Are you calling it a terrorist attack?
Official Spokesperson: Well there has been an explosion and it has resulted in a gruesome tragedy. I think you do not need any more classifications.

Question: How many of them are Pakistani nationals?
Official Spokesperson: Unfortunately, we do not have that break up. It is very difficult to ascertain, the entire process is being carried out in cooperation with Pakistani authorities. We have supplied the passport numbers of the passengers who were in the affected bogies. There are attempts to try and identify the bodies.

Question: Were both bogies unreserved?
Official Spokesperson: So I understand, but I am subject to correction. You might like to also check with Railway authorities.

Question: Has there been any change in schedule as far as Mr. Kasuri’s visit is concerned?
Official Spokesperson: Well for that we are putting up a separate press release. I can tell you that the visit takes place from 20 to 23 February 2007 for the fifth meeting of the India-Pakistan Joint Commission which will be held on the 21st February 2007. As far as the Joint Commission is concerned, six of the eight technical-level Joint Working Groups have already met on 2006. The remaining two, Education and Information, will meet on 20 February 2007. An Agreement on “Reducing the Risk from Accidents relating to Nuclear Weapons” will also be signed between the two countries on 21 February 2007.

Question: Have there been any contacts with the Pakistani authorities? Has Mr. Menon spoken to his counterpart?
Official Spokesperson: I am not aware of any such contact. I do know that at the operational level, Pakistani High Commission officials were facilitated in travelling to Panipat.

Question: How many of them travelled?
Official Spokesperson: Four, I understand, from your own channels.

Question: Mr. Sarna, the Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam has said that it was up to Indian authorities to provide security on this train to their passengers. Any response to that?
Official Spokesperson: I do not think this is the time for searching for headlines and I am not even sure as to whether your quotation is quite correct. It is a tremendous humanitarian tragedy. Let us keep our eye on that, let us try and bring succour to those who are injured and to the kin of those who are dead.

Thank you.