Srinagar, 13 March: In a development that has put Kashmir on edge just when protests over Afzal Guru’s execution were ebbing, militants launched a fidayeen attack on a CRPF camp along a busy national highway. Five CRPF jawans and two militants were killed in the attack and eleven others including seven CRPF personnel were injured.
Militants who were disguised as cricketers with weapons in a kit bag entered the playground of a police public school adjacent to the CRPF camp. Once inside, the militants took out arms and fired indiscriminately at the camp and also at the personnel deployed in the ground killing five of them on spot. The gun battle lasted for two hours during which two militants were also killed.
Hizbul Mujahideen has owned the responsibility for the attack. Talking to a local news agency, Hizb spokesman Baleeg-ud-Din said that two militants had attacked the CRPF camp. “It was a guerrilla attack and Hizb militants will carry out such attacks in future also,” Baleeg-ud-Din said.
However, police has yet to identify the militants who carried out the attack. “They don’t appear to be from Kashmir, otherwise their families would have claimed their bodies,” said a police officer. “No identity card also found on their bodies,” he added.
Soon after the attack, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah informed the JK House about the incident.
Later in the day, CRPF personnel killed a 35 year old youth Altaf Hussain Wani, a casual labour at Srinagar Municipal Corporation who was on his way to SKIMS hospital to donate blood for the injured. The vehicle he was traveling is said to have come under attack from a group of stone throwers at Zoonimar area of the city.
However, according to eye-witness, there was no stone throwing in the area at the time CRPF vehicle was moving. “Nothing was happening. City was normal,” said Tariq Ahmad Sofi, a resident. “The firing was unprovoked. CRPF killed the innocent youth to avenge fidayeen attack,” Sofi added.
As the news of Wani’s death spread, downtown Srinagar erupted in fresh protests. Large groups of angry youth took to the streets at Zaldaggar, Nawab Bazar, Narwara, Eidgah and pelted stones at the police and paramilitary forces deployed in the area.
The suicide attack on CRPF has added a troubling new dimension to the ongoing turmoil over the execution of Afzal Guru. Through the three successive public unrests of 2010, the militants had stayed off the action with Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin saying, “Mujahideen would let the peaceful protests to take centre stage.”
This is the first fidayeen attack in Kashmir in three years. In January 2010, three militants and five others were killed in an attack in Lalchowk, Srinagar’s major business hub. However, this is the second major attack on CRPF in the last two years. In 2010, seven CRPF personnel were injured when scooter-borne militants ambushed them in downtown Srinagar. That attack had also come on a day when Kashmir was observing shutdown on the occasion of the third anniversary of the alleged murder by security forces of the two women in Shopian in 2009.
The strike on CRPF camp has taken by surprise the security establishment in Valley which believed that militancy inSrinagarcity had been rooted out. This was reflected in the gradual removal of bunkers from parts of the city last year. The CRPF had moved to dismantle the 23 year old bunker at Lal Chowk,Srinagar’s business hub. According to police figures there are only 119 militants active in the state and even they are believed to be operating in the hinterland.