Militants shot dead two cops and an officer of J&K police in twin attacks in Srinagar on Monday, sending the entire security establishment into an alert mode.
While militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen owned the attacks—witnessed in the summer capital after a lull of about three years—top police officers called the attacks as "an act of desperation." The last such attack took place in the city on June 22, 2013 when two policemen were shot dead at Hari Singh High Street, officials said.
According to police, two pistol-borne youth, travelling on a motorcycle, opened fire on cops near Mill Stop in Zadibal area at around 10.40 am. "Both the cops were shot in head," a police official said. "The attack was so swift that the militants gave no chance for the cops to retaliate."
He said both cops were shot from point-blank range.
The spot, where the firing took place, is barely 200 yards away from police station Zadibal. "The slain cops received eight bullets, mostly in their heads.
They were shifted to SK Institute of Medical Sciences at Soura for treatment, but the doctors there declared them as brought dead," the police official said.
The slain cops were identified as Assistant Sub-Inspector Ghulam Muhammad Bhat of Surigam, Lolab and Head Constable Nazir Ahmad of Sarmargi, Handwara.
"They were on normal duty and regulating traffic at Mill Stop. They were associated with investigations of routine crime," an official at office of Superintendent of Police Hazratbal, told Greater Kashmir. "They were carrying only lathis, not weapons with them."
An eyewitness said he heard some gunshots and people started running towards safer places. "I could only see policemen lying in a pool of blood," he said. "Within minutes commuters disappeared from the area due to panic."
Soon after the incident, cops of Special Operations Group of J&K Police and CRPF cordoned off the area, but nobody was arrested or detained, the police official said.
Senior police officers also reached the spot to take stock of the situation.
Traffic movement to Hazratbal and Soura remained disrupted for about an hour after the attack, witnesses said.
After one hour of Zadibal attack, the second took place in Tengpora area of Batamaloo at around 11. 43 am. One cop of Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police was shot dead and the attackers decamped with his AK-47 rifle along with one magazine," a police official said.
The slain cop was identified as Muhammad Sadiq Sheik of 11 Battalion JKAP and was posted as Personal Security Officer to political leader, Muhammad Abdullah Charak.
Charak is running Institute of Health Education and ITI in Tengpora. Sadiq was the resident Dudi Machil area of Kupwara and is presently putting up at Patushahi Lolab.
Police said Sadiq was standing outside the Institute near ATM when two pistol-borne militants opened fire on him from point-blank range. He received four bullets, two in head, the official said. "We removed Sadiq to JVC hospital, but he was declared as brought dead by doctors there," officials at SDPO office, Bemina, told Greater Kashmir. "There is a CRPF bunker around the incident spot. Before the CRPF men could come out, the militants managed to escape."
An eyewitness to this attack said he heard four gunshots.
'PRESSURE ON MILITANTS'
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Zone, Syed Javid Mujtaba Gilliani said police and security forces have maintained pressure on militants, particularly Lasker-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. "It is because of this pressure they are resorting to such cowardly acts," he told reporters soon after the twin attacks.
To a query about presence of militants in Srinagar, he said they are investigating where from the gunmen came. "We will investigate and come back you," he said.
ACT OF DESPERATION: DGP
J&K's Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, on Monday said the killing of three policemen in two attacks by militants was a "desperate act" by them to show their presence.
"This is their (militants') desperation. They want to show their presence," he told reporters after wreath-laying ceremony held in Police Control Room here. "Their desperation is because we have succeeded in eliminating their leadership and newly-infiltrated groups."
Rajendra said Hizbul Mujahideen's owing responsibility for the two attacks, will be investigated. "We will investigate and come back with facts," he added.
Soon after the attacks, police erected barricades at several places in Srinagar and carried out frisking of vehicles, particularly bikes.
CM, DY CM, AZAD, OMAR EXPRESS CONCERN
Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, expressed deep shock over the killing of three policemen in two separate militant attacks in Srinagar.
The Chief Minister visited the Police Control Room (PCR) in Srinagar where she laid floral wreath on the mortal remains of the slain police personnel.
She expressed solidarity with the bereaved families of the deceased and prayed for peace to the departed souls.
Recalling the sacrifices of police personnel in "combating militancy" in the state, Mehbooba said such dastardly acts are "against the basic tenets of humanity and should be condemned by one and all."
"My heart goes out to the families of the slain police personnel and I hope that the perpetrators will be taken to task soon," she said.
She said such attacks are attempts by vested interests to "derail the peace and reconciliation process started by the state government in Jammu and Kashmir which will also impact the economy at a time when the tourism activity had started picking up in the state."
The Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh strongly condemned the twin militant attacks in the city.
Terming the attacks as barbaric, Dr Singh said "all sensible people should unequivocally condemn these dastardly attacks in which innocent people are being targeted."
He said such acts are "against the basic tenets of every religion which prohibit innocent killings and need of the hour is to get united and defeat the forces hell bent on disrupting peace in the State."
The Deputy Chief Minister further said that these types of activities "will not be tolerated."
Former J&K Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Saba Ghulam Nabi Azad said that resurfacing of militancy in Kashmir and particularly in Srinagar city is a matter of "great concern." He expressed his deep anguish on the killing of three cops including an ASI of Jammu & Kashmir police.
Azad cautioned people of State to be "vigilant of the nefarious designs of vested interests" who want to disturb the peace and harmony during this tourism season for obvious reasons.
"My heart bleeds for such innocent killings. May their souls rest in peace," he said.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah Monday said the attacks on policemen in the city was a "worrying" development and the Government should move quickly to reassure the residents and tourists.
"The attacks on policemen in Srinagar is a worrying development. Condolences to the families of those who've died (sic)," Omar tweeted. "The govt needs to move quickly to reassure residents of Srinagar and visitors (sic)," he said.
Advisor to Chief Minister, Prof Amitabh Mattoo has condemned the killing of three policemen in two separate militant attacks in Srinagar. Expressing solidarity with the bereaved families of the slain cops, the Advisor has prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls.
HIZB CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
Militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen on Monday claimed responsibility for attacks on police parties in Srinagar.
Hizb's operational spokesperson Burhanuddin told CNS that at least three policemen were killed in the twin attacks carried out by a special squad of the outfit.
"Besides, killing three policemen of Special Operation Group, the militants managed to decamp with a rifle of a slain policeman," he said. He added that Operation Field Commander of Hizbul Mujhadeen has directed the squad to intensify the attacks. "The attacks on the security establishments will continue," he said.