In one of the most fatal strikes in the last over three years, militants gunned down four policemen and looted their weapons at Hygam village of Sopore, 37 km from here, in Baramulla district of northern Kashmir on Friday.

Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Zone, Abdul Gani Mir, told The Hindu that a police party proceeded to Hygam on a tip-off about some “suspicious movement” in the village. As soon as the four men in the Rakhshak (Police vehicle) spotted two suspects and asked them to come closer for a physical frisking, both the unidentified men took out assault rifles and showered bullets.

While as the driver was killed in his seat, three armed personnel were shot dead on the road.

They were identified as head constable Abdul Rahim and constable Mudasir besides Gulshan Ahmad and Mudasir Ahmad Parray, both Special Police Officers. The militants looted three automatic weapons and vanished into the village.

Even as most of the Police officials believed that a group of the Pakistani cadres of Lashkar-e-Taiba had carried out the attack, Hizbul Mujahideen’s spokesperson Baleeg-ud-din claimed that the militants of his organisation attacked the Police party, killing four personnel.

Eyewitnesses said that the shootout led to panic in the village as nobody evacuated the injured for over 30 minutes till they died.

Police and troops of Rashtriya Rifles carried out a cordon-and-search operation that yielded nothing.