Terror hit on Srinagar CRPF camp foiled, gunbattle on

Srinagar: The security forces on Monday foiled what could have been a second major terrorist act on their encampments in Jammu and Kashmir in three days by forcing the assailants to flee. However, one CRPF jawan was killed and a J&K policeman was injured in a gunfight raging in the neighbourhood of the CRPF’s 23rd Battalion camp, the intended target, in Srinagar’s Karan Nagar area. Officials said the assailants have been holed up inside an under-construction building in the area. Intermittent firing continued till reports last came in. Local residents have been evacuated from the area. Intermittent firing continued till reports last came in whereas the local residents have been evacuated.

The officials said the gunmen tried to storm the CRPF camp shortly before dawn, exactly the way a group of militants believed to be members of Jaish-e-Mohammed did at an Army station at Sanjwan in the winter capital, Jammu, over the weekend.

But this time the militant attempt was foiled by an alert sentry who, officials said, on noticing suspicious persons at around 4.30 am carrying backpacks and weapons, challenged them and opened fire as well. “The militants fled into a nearby under-construction building. They were encircled by reinforcements and a gunfight is underway”, said a police official.

CRPF spokesman Rajesh Yadav said that the building where the two militants had taken positions was a huge structure. He said Constable Mujahid Khan of the CRPF’s 49 Battalion was critically injured in the clash and later succumbed in hospital. The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba claimed responsibility for the incident and said “our mujahedin have taken control of Indian forces’ stronghold”. Its chief Mehmood Shah said in a statement to local news agency GNS: “The mujahedin of LeT continue to seize control of the stronghold in Karan Nagar”.

Amid the clash, mobile phone companies snapped the high-speed mobile Internet service in Srinagar after an order to this effect by the district administration. “The mobile Internet speed was reduced to 2G as soon as we got the order,” an official said.

The incident came 48 hours after a group of “heavily equipped and highly motivated terrorists” stormed the Army’s 36 Brigade headquarters of Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JKLI) at Sunjwan in Jammu city, leaving five soldiers and the father of one of them dead, and 11 persons, including an officer of the rank of major, injured.

The Army had on Sunday claimed four militants were also killed in retaliatory action but officials have now said only three militants, five soldiers and a civilian died in the armed standoff. “The operation was called off at 10 am today,” defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced at a press conference in Jammu on Monday evening.

Earlier, the J&K government made a statement in the state Assembly, now holding its budget session in Jammu, that five soldiers, three militants and one civilian have been killed and 11 persons injured in the Sunjwan “fidayeen” attack.

Minister for revenue and parliamentary affairs Abdul Rehman Veeri said that the militants carried out the “fidayeen” attack on February 10 by “opening indiscriminate fire and lobbing grenades” inside the Army station. He added: “Three militants were also killed. The firing stopped at 2 am on February 11 but the area is still under cordon and is being sanitised”.

Army officials said the militants were wearing combat fatigues and that during the operation the IAF’s Para commandos, airlifted from the garrison town of Udhampur and Sarsawa in Haryana, and the Army’s special forces acted in concert to “flush out” the attackers while Army helicopters and drones and IAF aerial surveillance were used to neutralise the holed-up militants.

In the backdrop of these attacks and constant cross-border firing and shelling incidents, in which scores of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and wounded over the past three weeks, J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday once again advocated the resumption of a peace dialogue with Pakistan which, she said, was vital in order to seek an end to the suffering of the people of the state.

She tweeted: “Dialogue with Pakistan is necessary if we are to end bloodshed. I know I will be labelled anti-national by news anchors tonight, but that doesn’t matter. The people of J&K are suffering. We have to talk because war is not an option”.

She added: “If we (Kashmiris) don’t talk about it (dialogue), who will? Not a Bihari, not a Punjabi.”

Later, the chief minister, while speaking separately in the two Houses of the J&K legislature, reiterated that the people of the state have been the worst victims of continued violence and uncertainty and said “dialogue is the best way to resolve issues and end this acrimonious situation”. She added: “The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been caught in the web of violence for the past 30 years or so, and it is out of this pain and suffering that they have been demanding a dialogue and better relations between India and Pakistan.

“For how long shall the people continue to die and for how long shall we be laying wreaths?”, she asked. She regretted that some television channels were creating unnecessary acrimony about the state in order to increase their TRPs. “This way they are alienating more the people of the state from the national mainstream”, she said, and appealed to the media to play a positive and constructive role while reporting and discussing developments about the state.