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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Five SLRs looted from minority guards in lawless South Kashmir

Over a hundred Police weapons have been looted or destroyed in fire by militants, separatists in PDP’s one-time stronghold

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 3: Continuing their spree of looting automatic weapons from protected persons, their security personnel and Police pickets, suspected militants on Monday looted all the five self-loading rifles (SLRs) from a Police column guarding members of the minority community in Kulgam district of South Kashmir.

Official sources revealed to STATE TIMES that a group of three to four militants appeared at a Police picket at Sonam village, near Damhal Hanjipora, in Kulgam area at 7.30 pm. Only three of the five Police guards were present on duty. Without causing any harm to the Police-guarded five Rajput families at the village, in foothills of Pir Panjal mountain, the suspected militants relieved the three Policemen of their SLRs alongwith two more of their absent colleagues. They decamped with the five SLRs without meeting any resistance.

The five Hindu Rajput families of Dogra-Punjabi origin have been living in Kulgam area since long and they are state subjects. Since 1990s, officials said, Government has provided Police protection to the minority without requisition from the families. Sources said that members of the Rajput community have been living here and holding their businesses like all the resident Muslims without any specific threat perception.

Over a hundred SLRs, Insas rifles, AK-47s and other weapons have been looted or destroyed in fire by suspected militants with the help of their local supporters in the last three months of turbulence in the lawless South Kashmir following Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8 this year. The biggest plunder occurred at Police Station of Damhal Hanjipora, just 3 Kms from Sonam, on the day of Burhan Wani’s funeral prayers, when two demonstrators were killed in the Police firing and 41 Police weapons were either destroyed in fire or looted from the arms store.

Following the mayhem at Damhal Hanjipora, suspected militants destroyed or looted weapons from the PSOs and house guards of PDP’s MP, Nazir Ahmad Laway, besides some protected persons claiming allegiance to different mainstream parties. One of such persons, from whose home suspected militants looted weapons at Begam (Kulgam), has been disowned by both National Conference as well as PDP. Reports claim that dozens of such dubious persons have been enlisted as ‘protected persons’ and provided armed guards and PSOs by senior Police officials for pecuniary considerations, without any assessment of threat perception. They reportedly include a number of timber smugglers.

Meanwhile Kashmir valley observed shutdown on 87th consecutive day on the call of separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik on Monday. Some private vehicles were seen plying in certain areas and shops were also open in some neighbourhoods but the commercial traffic is still off the road and most of the shops and business establishments, including all educational institutions, have remained closed in the last three months.

Confusion over Baramulla ‘gunfight’

Confusion prevailed on the overnight firing in Baramulla town which left one BSF official dead and another injured. As already reported, senior officials of the Government of India had claimed that Army and BSF foiled a fidayeen attempt at headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles 46th battalion last night. Officials had also claimed that security forces killed two militants in the two-hour-long gunfight.

Today’s reports from Baramulla made it clear that none of the militants had been killed by the security forces during the gunfight or before or after it occurred in the garrison town. Some reports claimed that the BSF men had been hit when Army and BSF exchanged fire in total chaos and confusion. These reports claimed that there had been no militant strike on the Army camp or BSF.    

SSP Baramulla Imtiyaz Hussain said that army and BSF foiled the attempts of the militants to storm the 46 RR camp in Janbazpora. In the shootout that lasted for over an hour, a BSF man was killed and another injured, he said. Hussain said that the militants took cover of darkness to escape from the site of the attack.

A sentry of 40th battalion of BSF located at Janbazpora in the outskirts of the city located in North Kashmir claimed to have spotted "some suspicious movement" near the open kitchen area and started firing apprehending that fidayeen may have entered the camp, sources said. The firing led to panic in adjacent army camp where troops of 46 Rashtriya Rifles also started firing in the direction in which suspected militants were believed to have entered.

Firing continued from all sides and it was not clear whether some militants had entered the campus or the firing came from outside. After 90 minutes of firing, illuminators were used to light up the sky but no militant was found, sources said. Security officials said the militants melted into darkness.

However, it was found that BSF constables Nitin and Pulwinder were injured in the firing and they were rushed to a military hospita in Srinagar. Nitin later succumbed to injuries. It was not immediately clear whether the BSF man was killed by the militants or he had fallen victim to the firing caused by chaos and confusion. Forces had been put on high alert after the authorities received reports on Saturday last that a group of six militants had been seen in movenent in an ambulance around Baramulla town.

Udhampur-based Northern Command had tweeted a little after midnight: "Baramulla incident situation contained and under control".

Surprisingly, the union Home Ministry spokesman claimed in the morning that two militants had been shot dead but it was not corroborated by army, BSF or the local police. The spokesman later said that the report of the killing of two militants was a "claim" and it was being "verified".

BSF Inspector General (Kashmir) Vikash Chandra told mediapersons that at least two militants were involved in the attack and the security forces recovered a GPS set, a compass and a wire cutter besides some ammunition this morning after a search was launched near the camp on the banks of the Jhelum river.

"My boys from the spot have confirmed that there were at least two militants who were firing at them. There could be few more militants, may be two more, but that is not confirmed as of now," he said.

Chandra said the firing started about 10:30 PM after the BSF men detected some "suspicious movement" in the vicinity of their camp that they shared with the nearby battalion headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles. 

"Our camp is co-located with the RR. The boys on sentry duty detected suspicious movements and when fire came in they came out of the bunker to effectively take on the militants," he said, and claimed that Nitin was grievously injured when a grenade lobbed by militants hit him. According to Chandra, the militants melted into the darkness and a search operation was underway.



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