Anupama Katakam

MUMBAI: Three top Mumbai police officials and 14 policemen were killed in combat operations against the terrorists who attacked the metropolis on Wednesday.

The biggest shock for the personnel was the killing of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare in an operation he led. Mr. Karkare was gunned down near the Cama and Albless Hospital.

Additional Commissioner of Police (East) Ashok Kamte and police inspector and well-known encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar were also killed in the same operation.

Speaking to the media on Thursday deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil said Mr. Karkare was on his way home when he heard about the terror attack at the Trident. He was heading there when he was told that the firing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) was much more severe.

Near the CST station senior officer Sadanand Date was holding off the terrorists holed up in a lane alongside the Cama and Albless Hospital.

Armed with automatic weapons, Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar got into a jeep and rushed to take on the terrorists. Unfortunately, the terrorists proved much too lethal for them and all three were gunned down.

Mr. Karkare was known for his discipline and sense of fairness. Appointed ATS chief in January this year, he was instrumental in cracking the September 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts. It was he who brought to the surface the militant activities of various radical Hindu groups in Maharashtra. In spite of severe political pressure regarding the Malegaon investigation, he managed to keep the issue apolitical and continue with the investigation.

A 1982 batch IPS officer, Mr. Karkare was in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Austria until he took over at the ATS. An IPS officer who knew him well said, “his death is a huge loss to our force and society.”

Mr. Kamte was known for his fearless ways. A 1989 batch IPS officer, he was very popular when he was commissioner of police in Solapur. A close associate said even after he left Solapur he was treated as hero whenever he was in town.

Mr. Salaskar was a quiet man who had an air of confidence about him. A key member of Mumbai police’s exclusive and somewhat controversial “encounter” squad, he is said to have killed close to 75 criminals.

Known for his ability to weed out information about underworld gang activities in Mumbai, Mr. Salaskar was often at the helm of combating gang wars in the city. A 1983 batch officer, he had been keeping a low profile for the past two years. Recently he was appointed the head of the anti-extortion cell at the Crime Branch.

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