Director General of Police Ashok Prasad said militants of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Taiba could be behind the attack.

Suspected militants on Saturday gunned down two police constables in broad daylight at Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

Senior Army officials were holding a function in the town, which had been ‘sanitised’ at the time of the attack, for which both the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen have claimed responsibility.

Sources told The Hindu that four militants, driving a red Maruti Suzuki Eeco, pulled up at a crowded bus-stand at 10.55 a.m. Two of them came out of the vehicle, bearing the Kupwara registration number JK09-8692, and from point blank range shot dead Santosh Singh (26) and Azad Chand (27) of the J&K Armed Police 13th battalion.

The constables were rushed to the local Sub District Hospital where doctors declared them “brought dead.” Both of them were from Jammu and reportedly “on law and order duty” with just batons in hand.

Residents as well as official sources maintained that the militants carried pistols fitted with silencers, and showed no sign of fear or panic. After the shooting, they drove towards Langet.

Well-placed sources revealed to The Hindu that the vehicle was traced to a locality nearby and seized. Its driver-cum-owner Showkat Ahmad Rather of Tikkipora, Lolab Kupwara, was taken into custody for questioning.

None of the senior officials, however, visited the spot. Director General of Police Ashok Prasad said that Additional DG (Law and Order), K. Rajendra Kumar, would visit the border district on Sunday.

Mr. Prasad said militants of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Taiba could be behind the attack. He confirmed that the constables were not carrying any weapon. Another police officer said: “Only the personal security officers of SHOs, Deputy SPs and SPs are allowed to carry guns. All others on law and order duty after the street turmoil of 2010 hold only non-lethal weapons like tearsmoke guns and batons.

According to him, it was the fourth incident since last summer when unarmed constables were killed in Kashmir.

In an earlier incident in 2006, three militants travelling in a minibus bus from Handwara to Bahkihakar village chopped off the head of a local Special Police Officer.

Another SPO, however, shot dead one of the fleeing militants though the main assassin, believed to be a Pakistani commander of the Al-Badar Mujahideen, escaped.