Two militants dead, authorities suspect Pak-based outfits

In a fidayeen attack — occurring after three years — two militants and five CRPF personnel died and ten others sustained injuries on the National Highway Bypass in Bemina area of Srinagar on Wednesday. The officiating Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Abdul Gani Mir said that two unidentified militants were gunned down after they attacked and killed the CRPF men on the playground of J&K Police Public School at Bemina around 10.45 a.m. He said six more paramilitary personnel and four civilians sustained injuries in the suicide attack, unprecedented in the State’s history of militancy in 23 years.

Mr. Mir, who is currently IGP Crime in J&K and had arrived in Srinagar minutes before the shootout, said that the Police school had been already closed for Wednesday due to the separatists-sponsored call for shutdown. “Had the school been open, the toll would have been higher”, he told The Hindu. He was not sure about the number of the militants who carried out the attack at the ‘F’ company headquarters of CRPF 73 battalion but said that none other than the two militants was found dead or alive during the following cordon-and-search operation in the locality.

“Both the militants at the playground were killed and we have seized two of their AK-56 rifles besides some hand grenades along with their bodies. The area is now cleared for traffic”, Mr. Mir said. According to him, two young men wearing sports outfits and each carrying a sports bag had appeared at the playground and engaged the CRPF men in a ‘friendly cricket match’. A number of youth from the nearby localities were watching and playing the game when the two strangers suddenly took out their automatic rifles and attacked the unarmed paramilitary personnel.

“They lobbed grenades and sprayed bullets, killing five CRPF men. Even after others at the camp took positions and the young players ran for life, both the militants kept on firing in all directions. They were soon gunned down”, Mr. Mir said. He said that the militants were unidentified but the police had seized certain documents and other evidence from their belongings that could lead to their identification.

In New Delhi, Home Secretary R.K. Singh said: “Prima facie, the terrorists appear to be from across the border and were Pakistani nationals”.

A caller who said his name was Baleeg-ud-din and claimed to be a Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman told a local news gathering agency that two militants of his organisation had carried out the attack. He reportedly warned that such attacks would continue in the future.

Senior officials, however, insisted that this could be an attempt to mislead the police and security forces as Hizbul Mujahideen in the past had publicly disapproved suicide attacks as “un-Islamic”. They said that only a few Pakistan-based jihadist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad had carried out such strikes in J&K for over a decade of the prime of militancy before 2010. LeT, they said, was the first suspect. A suicide-type attack had left two employees of a hotel on the highway bypass dead in October 2012. The last of the 80 or so suicide strikes in the State had occurred at a hotel at the business nerve centre of Lalchowk in Srinagar in January 2010. Two militants and some policemen and civilians had died in the two-day-long operation.