SRINAGAR: Two unarmed policemen were shot dead by two Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in Srinagar’s Barzulla area on Friday, while three Al-Badr terrorists were killed in an encounter earlier in the day in south Kashmir’s Shopian even as two of their accomplices managed to flee, IGP Kashmir Range Vijay Kumar said.
He added that Wednesday’s attack on the 22-year-old scion of Srinagar’s landmark Krishna Vaishno Dhaba, which left the youth critically injured, was carried out to instil fear among tourists on a day when a 24-member European Union delegation was on a two-day visit to the Valley. During interrogation, the newly-recruited trio that carried out the strike confessed that The Resistance Front (TRF) commander Gazi had lured and tasked them with the crime.
Earlier, the little-known Muslim Janbaz Force — which the South Asia Terrorism Portal lists as a Pakistani outfit — had owned responsibility for the strike in a statement, claiming it was in retaliation to “outsiders” being allowed to settle in J&K under the new domicile rules.
On Friday’s attack in Srinagar, Kumar said senior grade constable Mohammad Yousuf from Kupwara and constable Suhail Ahmed from Anantnag, were “on a routine duty and at a shop to purchase something” in Baghat Chowk when, according to eyewitnesses, the Lashkar duo brandished AK-47 rifles that they had concealed under their pherans (robes) and opened fire at the cops from behind. The injured policemen were rushed to separate hospitals where they succumbed during treatment.
Speaking at the wreath-laying ceremony of the slain constables at DPL Srinagar, the IGP said that the Lashkar ultras — one of them from Pakistan and another a local terrorist named Saqib — had been identified and would be traced soon. “We will go for a security review and plug the loopholes. Had the policemen carried weapons, they could have retaliated,” he said, adding no one was detained or arrested yet in the attack.
On the south Kashmir encounter, the IGP said, “Late Thursday, security forces laid a cordon in Shopian’s Imam Sahab area acting on intelligence inputs about the presence of terrorists there. Early Friday, contact was established with holed in ultras and in the ensuing fire exchange, three local Al-Badr terrorists were killed.” Two AK-47 rifles and a pistol were recovered from the encounter site.
About Wednesday’s dhaba attack, Kumar said, “We acted swifty and constituted teams under the supervision of a DIG-rank officer that was headed by SP (south city). A civilian informed the SP that the attackers were riding a bike, following which we accessed CCTV footage and followed other inputs.”
A joint police team from Srinagar and Anantnag subsequently arrested two youths involved in the attack and seized the bike and pistol used in the crime. “During interrogation, they revealed that a third person was involved in the attack, and we arrested him too. All three — two from Pampore and another from Pulwama — were newly-recruited terrorists and one of them was given pistol training in Pahalgam’s forest area,” the IGP said.
TRF commander Gazi instructed them to attack Krishna Vaishno Dhaba, which is open even during strikes and always sees a rush of tourists. “We have recorded their confession statement in a video to be produced before the court with the challan,” Kumar said.
To a question on whether security would be stepped up for the upcoming tourist season, the IGP said more surveillance and deployment would be carried out in Srinagar’s busy areas and elsewhere. “Additional bunkers may be set up if need be. A close watch will be kept on elements who might attempt to disrupt peace. Frisking will be intensified,” he added.