Sarpanch, officer killed in Anantnag militant strike

Grenades, gunfire greet new UT’s ‘Back to Village’ initiative; four injured in separate attack in Srinagar.

Updated - November 26, 2019 10:33 pm IST

Published - November 26, 2019 05:18 pm IST - Srinagar

Securitymen cordon off the Hazratbal area in Srinagar, after a grenade attack on November 26, 2019.

Securitymen cordon off the Hazratbal area in Srinagar, after a grenade attack on November 26, 2019.

Militants attacked the Union Territory administration’s first public outreach programme after the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and killed a sarpanch and a government officer in Anantnag. 

In another grenade attack, four civilians were injured in Srinagar, while a shrine was damaged at Tral in Pulwama district.

A police officer said militants threw a grenade and opened fire around 3.30 p.m. at a group of local officials and grassroots representatives at Hakoora village in Anantnag when they were clicking pictures of the local initiatives, as per the requirement of the ‘Back to village’ programme.

"Four persons were injured in the attack in Anantnag. Two persons, identified as sarpanch Peer Muhammad Rafi and Assistant Agriculture Officer Sheikh Zahoor, died in the hospital," said the police officer. Mr. Rafi was affiliated with the Congress.

Under the programme, the administration attempted to address local issues on the spot. In this major outreach by the Lt. Governor's administration, over 5000 gazetted officers and 657 directorate level officers will visit panchayats "to receive the first-hand appraisal reports at the grassroots level about the developmental works" from November 25-30. The officers are directed to identify critical gap.

"It's a setback for the initiative but the security agencies will take care of security. We will continue with the initiative. Militancy is not new to this place. The government offices have to function," Sheetal Nanda, secretary Rural Development Department, said.

The attack comes amid intelligence inputs of impeding militant attacks in south Kashmir, forcing the police to upgrade security for the six-day long initiative.

Meanwhile, the Congress and the National Conference (NC) blamed the government for the casualties.

"It's wrong decision on part of the government to start the programme in first place, and even the timing is wrong. It's responsibility of the government to safeguard lives. When the situation is not conducive for BJP leader Yashwant Sinha to visit south Kashmir, how is it safe for such an initiative. It seems the employees' lives are being put on the line," said Congress leader G.A. Mir.

NC leader and Anantnag Member Parliament Hasnain Masoodi said, "We had warned the government that such initiatives will prove detrimental to peace. It was being projected as an alternative to the traditional politics."

Militants also detonated a low intensity blast in Srinagar's Hazratbal area, leaving five civilians injured. The incident took place outside the gates of the Kashmir University.

Meanwhile, in south Kashmir's Pulwama, one more militant was killed in an operation, started on Monday in Pachaar Rajpora area. They were identified as Irfan Ahmad Sheikh and Irfan Ahmad Rather, both residents of Pulwama.

"The militants belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen and were part of groups involved in planning and executing terror attacks. Slain Sheikh was involved in weapon snatching at Tumlahal," said the police spokesman.

In another incident, the police said miscreants attempted to desecrate a local shrine of Mir Syed Mohd Hamdani at Kousarbal in Tral around 11:30 p.m. on Monday, triggering protests.

"It resulted in damage to the portion of the mosque meant for offering prayers by the women folk. An investigation is on to nab the culprits behind the miscreant act," said the police.

Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu, condemning the fire incident, said, "Such acts are designed to arouse passion among the people and hurt their sentiments. It will not be tolerated. The perpetrators of this heinous act will not be spared and shall be brought to justice."

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