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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Militants strike on BSF convoy in CM's hometown

3 BSF men killed, 6 injured in daredevil attack on J&K highway; Hizbul Mujahideen claims responsibility

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


 SRINAGAR, June 3: In an audacious attack on the security forces in Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's hometown of Bijbehara, on Srinagar-Jammu national highway, militants on Friday killed three BSF personnel and left six more wounded, days ahead of by-election in Assembly segment of Anantnag in southern Kashmir.

Informed official sources told STATE TIMES that hundreds of residents of Semthan village, near Bijbehara, had blocked the highway to press their demand of credible investigation into the mysterious death of a local student Muddasar Ahmad Rather. Emphasising that the 23-year-old student's killers be identified, arrested and brought to justice, the demonstrators blocked traffic on the highway for more than an hour. Rather had been found dead in his college hostel room in Fatehgarh Saheb district of Punjab on May 29.

Due to the blockade and resultant traffic jam, authorities stopped all Srinagar-bound convoys of security forces at Khannabal, the district headquarters of Anantnag. At around 4.00 pm, the demonstrators withdrew and the convoys began proceeding towards Srinagar. Convoys of CRPF and Army passed smoothly.

Suddenly at 4.20 pm, three unidentified militants appeared on the highway near J&K Bank and Sub District Hospital at Goriwan, in close neighbourhood of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's ancestral residence  at Bijbehara. They got out AK-56 rifles from their bags and fired indiscriminately on a BSF bus, killing two personnel on spot. Seven personnel were left injured. One of them having sustained critical injuries later died at the hospital. He was among the two critically injured BSF men who were airlifted and treated at Army's 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar.

Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman Burhanuddin told Srinagar-based news agencies on telephone that the militants of a special squad of his organisation attacked the BSF convoy at Bijbehara and left "several soldiers" dead and injured. He added that Operation Field Commander of Hizbul Mujahideen has directed the squad to intensify the attacks till the presence of Indian troops in Kashmir. “The attacks on the security establishments will continue,” he is reported to have warned.

However, Deputy Inspector General of Police, South Kashmir,  Nitish Kumar insisted that the attack could be the handiwork of the Pakistani cadres of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba independently or in coordination with Hizbul Mujahideen. "We are sure that the assailants were non-Kashmiris and that Hizb doesn't have any of such well-trained and daredevil militants", DIG said. He claimed that in the past, several attacks had been carried out by LeT but claimed by Hizbul Mujahideen.

BSF sources said that at least four militants fired on a bus from either side of the road. BSF retaliated but its response was not effective for fear of civilian casualties in the crowded township. Consequently, all the militants managed to escape.

Even as a number of militants have died in the operations launched by security forces in 2015 snd 2016, it was after a long pause that militants initiated the attack and succeeded to kill three forces personnel. In June 2013, militants had killed eight Army soldiers on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit, on the highway bypass, at Hyderpora in Srinagar.

On December 7, 2015, two unidentified militants surfaced on the highway at Green Tunnel near Semthan, Bijbehara, and fired indiscriminately on a CRPF convoy. Six CRPF men had sustained injuries and the militants escaped unhurt.

The last fidayeen-type successful attack by militants on the security forces occurred on highway near EDI complex at Pampore on February 20, 2016, when militants attacked a CRPF convoy and left two personnel dead. Subsequently, one civilian, three Special Forces officers and three militants (claimed to be the Pakistani cadres of LeT) got killed in the three-day long operation at EDI complex.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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