ASI among 2 cops gunned down by militants in Anantnag
Within 24 hours of killing 3 BSF men at Bijbehara, motorcycle borne gunmen struck on a Police party in Anantnag
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, June 4: Making their intentions of disrupting Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's Assembly election of June 22, as also a flourishing tourist season and the forthcoming Amarnath pilgrimage, clearer, unidentified militants carried out second consecutive daredevil strike in 24 hours at district headquarters of Anantnag, killing two Police officials including an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) on Saturday.
Residents, claiming to be eyewitnesses, told STATE TIMES that three unidentified persons on a Pulsor-type motorcycle slowed down in front of a small Police party at the exit of General Bus Stand on Khannabal-Pahalgam (KP) Road at Anantnag at 11.15 a.m. Two of them swiftly took out AK-47 rifles from their bags and fired on the unarmed ASI Bashir Ahmad Ahangar and his PSO, Constable Riyaz Ahmad, who had an AK-47 in hand, in point blank range. Both the Police personnel got critically injured. They were rushed to District Hospital Anantnag where doctors declared them dead.
Official sources said that Police managed to obtain a photograph clicked with a cellphone by a resident that helped the authorities identify two of the three assassins.
"According to preliminary identification, one of the assassins is Junaid of Khudwani and another is believed to be a Pakistani militant of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. However, the process of identification and verification is still inconclusive", said a senior Police official. He said that the militants escaped on their motorcycle through an alley taking off for Chhee village and subsequently passed through Angmattipora village towards Bijbehara-Srigufwara belt.
Officials maintained that the Police party headed by ASI Bashir was clearing a traffic jam at the exit point of the dustrict bus-yard when the militants appeared and shot them like sitting ducks. The militants attempted to take away Constable Riyaz Ahmad's AK-47 rifle but escaped when another constable from a distance fired in the air.
As the killing of the two local Police officials generated palpable resentment in their localities and large number of the residents attended their funeral prayers at Loktipora Ashmuqam and Uttarsu Shangus, none of the militant organisations claimed responsibility of the attack till late on Saturday night.
Residents, as well the officials, said that the broad daylight shootout, which came in 24 hours of an audacious ambush on BSF at Bijbehara, spread a wave of terror in Anantnag district where polling for by-election of Anantnag proper Assembly segment is scheduled to be held on June 22. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is seeking mandate as the ruling PDP candidate from the segment that has fallen vacant due to the former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's death on January 7 this year. Saturday was the last day of withdrawal of nomination for the nine candidates who have filed their papers. As the independent MLA from Langate (Kupwara) Engineer Rashid withdrew his papers, eight candidates, including Mehbooba, are now in the fray.
Congress has repeated its candidate Hilal Ahmad Shah, who secured over 10,000 votes in 2014 but lost to PDP's Chief Ministerial candidate Mufti Mohammad Sayeed by a margin of around 6,000 votes. National Conference too has repeated its 2014 candidate Iftikhar Hussain Misgar who had polled around 3,000 votes in previous Assembly election. Efforts are reportedly underway between NC and Congress to project Shah as the opposition's consensus candidate.
No electioneering has been witnessed so far in the key constituency from which Mehbooba's victory is a do-or-die matter for the PDP-BJP coalition. Representing Lok Sabha constituency of Anantnag in the Parliament since May 2014, Ms Mufti has taken over as Chief Minister on April 4, around three months after her father's death. She is bound to be elected within six months as a member of Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council. Technically and legally, she is entitled to election as MLC even after losing in the current by-election on Assembly seat of Anantnag. However, her defeat can leave her bereft of the moral ground of continuation as Chief Minister and President of the ruling party. That is why Ms Mufti's victory has a high stake and is extremely important for the PDP-BJP coalition.
Fear of the gun among electorate can drastically reduce turnout and have a negative bearing on the prospects of Ms Mufti's victory even as she has contested two Parliamentary and three Assembly elections from South Kashmir in the last 20 years and won them all. None of her seven rivals in the contest is any match to her high political profile.
Even as none of the politicians was seen around, Director General of Police K Rajendra Kumar rushed to Anantnag to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony of the slain Police personnel. He was also joined by General Officer Commanding Victor Force, IGs and DIGs of Kashmir Police and CRPF besides a number of Army's and CRPF's battalion commanders and all district SPs of South Kashmir. After the ceremony, DGP also chaired a high level security review meeting with Police, paramilitary and Army officers.
[Published in today's STATE TIMES]