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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ex-Dy SP gunned down at Srinagar mosque

Over 100 Police officials shot dead at mosques in Kashmir in 23 years

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 10: Five days ahead of Independence Day celebrations in Kashmir and 18 days after Mr Ashok Prasad’s taking over as Director General of J&K Police, suspected militants have gunned down a retired Police officer in Batmaloo area of this capital city. Retired Deputy Superintendent of Police, Abdul Hamid Bhat, was coming out of a mosque after performing his afternoon prayers when an unidentified youth pumped bullets into his body, killing him on the spot.

Informed sources told Early times that 60-year-old Abdul Hamid Bhat S/o Ali Mohammad Bhat of Mominabad, Tengpura (Batmaloo), was coming out of Masjid-e-Bilal when two unidentified persons accosted him at the main entrance of the mosque at 1.30 p.m. today. One of them, according to eyewitnesses, took out an AK-47 rifle from his bag and fired a burst on Bhat in point blank rage. Bhat, who was tying laces of his shoes, fell in a pool of blood and died on the spot. Eyewitnesses told Police that the assailants walked away rather leisurely and vanished into a neighbourhood close to the national highway bypass.

As panic gripped the area and Police rushed an unconscious Bhat to SMHS Police, doctors declared him ‘brought dead’. Official sources said that Bhat was found hit by four AK-47 rounds. However, a Police agency reported that the assassin used a pistol.

According to authoritative sources, Bhat was actually a resident of Shaheed Gunj area who had been living at his newly built house at Mominabad, Batmaloo. He had retired from service last year as a company commander in IRP 14th Bn. Prior to that, he had served a three-year-tenure as Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of M R Gunj, in the heart of downtown Srinagar. On account of his conduct, he had landed in controversies on a couple of occasions. In months of his appointment as SSP Srinagar in 2010, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari had got him removed on complaint basis to IRP where he retired last year.

IGP Kashmir, Shiv Murari Sahai, told Early Times that no militant outfit had immediately claimed responsibility but Bhat’s killing was believed to be the handiwork of militants. He said that a network of active and recycled militants, some of them operating in Srinagar and others coming in from outside, was believed to have conducted reconnaissance survey of the spot and finally carried out the target killing today. He said that earlier this year, militants had similarly gunned down a Block President of the ruling National Conference in Nattipora area.

Sahai said that Police had registered a criminal case and started investigation. He sounded confident that Police would soon neutralize the fresh guerrilla network and bring assassins to justice. “As of now, we have no clue with regard to identification of the group and Bhat’s killers but we are hopeful of a breakthrough soon”, IGP Sahai said. He said that Bhat had no counterinsurgency or operational background but Police would find who killed him and why.

Bhat’s killing, that occurred just five days short of the I-Day celebrations and at a time when the capital city was on a high alert, has spread a wave of fear in Batmaloo area of Srinagar. Like in Nattipora, suspected militants have established that they could operate in broad daylight even in more protected areas like Batmaloo. It is the first killing of a Police officer since Mr Ashok Prasad assumed charge as DGP on July 23rd.

Earlier this year, suspected militants had gunned down ASI Sukhpal Singh while on traffic regulation duty at Darishkadal, near Safakadal, in Srinagar, on April 20th. Later, on July 3rd, suspected militants had shot dead constable Dalbir Singh while on duty at Rajpora Chowk of Pulwama. On the same day, militants had gunned down Constable Mukhtar Ahmad at a Police naka, on the day of Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand’s tour, at Yaripora, Kulgam, in south Kashmir. Militants have also carried out at least four grenade and firing attacks on the Police stations of Sopore and Pattan in north Kashmir in the last three months.

100 cop killings at mosques
According to official statistics, militants have killed as many as 1540 Police personnel, including 615 SPOs and VDC members, in Jammu and Kashmir since the armed insurgency broke out in 1989. [This does not include over 4,000 men from army and paramilitary forces who have died in guerrilla strikes and gunbattles with militants]. Of them, over 100 J&K Police personnel have been killed while going to or coming out of mosques after performing prayers.

In fact the entire series began with the killing of then SHO Maisuma, Inspector Saadullah, who was the first target of militants on December 1st, 1989. Saadullah was gunned down by suspected JKLF militants when he was coming out of mosque at Maisuma after performing prayers. Later, victims of identical target killings included a number of Inspectors, Dy SPs and SPs (like Abdul Majid Lone and Mohammad Amin Khan).

On February 2, 2004, suspected militants gunned down DIG Mohammad Amin Bhat at a mosque at Baghat Barzullah Chowk in Srinagar when he was coming out after performing the congregational prayers of Eid-al-Azha. Till date, he is the senior most Police officer who has been shot dead by militants in the last 23 years.


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