"We are yet to verify the claim of Hizb-ul Mujahideen for the fidayeen attack"

Virtually agreeing with the Opposition that the fidayeen attack on the CRPF camp in Srinagar on Wednesday killing five security personnel was sponsored by Pakistan, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde ascribed it to militants of foreign origin with connection to Pakistan.

Mr. Shinde made statements in both Houses of Parliament. Replying to queries in the Rajya Sabha, he admitted that most of the CRPF personnel killed were armed only with lathis, as the use of arms was restricted as part of the process of restoring peace in the Valley.

Reiterating that he did not identify the two fidayeen, who were killed in the ensuing encounter, as belonging to Pakistan, Mr. Shinde said the Hizb-ul Mujahideen’s owning up the attack was not verified.

He, however, stated that the militants’ belongings, including some medicines, had Pakistani markings and their diaries had entries pertaining to Pakistan.

Explaining the fact that Central forces did not carry arms all the time, Mr. Shinde said the effort was to take the people in the Valley into confidence. During a recent visit to Srinagar, he was at Lal Chowk without any security in a private vehicle accompanied by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the Minister said.

The thrust was on peace and to unroll the investment process initiated by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during a meeting with industrialists to train the youth and get them jobs in industrial units there. He was confident that when the youth of Kashmir visited cities across the country they would mingle with other people and this would influence their outlook.

‘Fatalities, attacks down’

Mr. Shinde quoted figures to show the number of attacks over the years had gone down and with that, fatalities. Security forces suffered no casualty in 2012.

As regards the government’s seriousness in combating terrorism, Mr. Shinde shot down the Opposition charge that the government failed on this front. “Nobody is wearing choodiyan [bangles]. Everybody is strong.”

The Minister said a watch was being kept on camps operating in PoK. Intelligence information was being coordinated and shared with States.

While being vigilant, the government would push special packages for peace in the Valley.

He said he would visit Gujarat on March 25, and hinted at curtailing the scope for infiltration through the fencing there too. The same was likely to be taken up along the West Bengal border.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj minced no words in attacking the UPA government for hosting the Pakistan Prime Minister while on his way to Ajmer Sharif.

Almost all Opposition members said the Srinagar attack should be viewed as not just a terrorist operation, but as an enemy attack on the country.

Ms. Swaraj accused the government of being meek and taking into stride all attacks on security forces, including the ones where they had been beheaded.

National Conference members Sharifuddin Shariq and Mirza Mehboob Beg pressed their demand for withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), saying hundreds of youths were killed and several others maimed.