Five CRPF men killed in Srinagar as 3-year lull in attacks ends

BREAKING a three-year lull, "fidayeen" militants struck in Srinagar Wednesday and killed five Central Reserve Police Force personnel before both of them were shot dead at the end of a 30-minute gun battle.

Six CRPF men were also injured in the attack which took place when they were getting ready for security duties.

Soon after the attack, CRPF soldiers killed a 37-year-old civilian in the Sadipora Idgah locality in the old city, sparking protests as locals alleged it was a revenge killing by men of the same battalion who were attacked by the militants.

Police said the militants sneaked into the Police Public School ground in Bemina, adjacent to government residential buildings and the police quarters where CRPF personnel were preparing for deployment. The school was closed due to a strike called by separatist groups.

Wearing pouches, the two militants threw grenades and opened fire on the CRPF troops. DIG of police Ahfadul Mujtaba said the attackers were neutralised within half-an-hour. "The CRPF personnel who were attacked were there for deployment on law and order duty. The identity of the slain militants is being ascertained," he said.

Although police officials said the attack had a Lashkar-e-Toiba imprint, Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility and warned of more such attacks. "The guerrilla attack was carried out by our men and similar attacks will be carried out in future as well," a Hizb spokesman told a local news agency in Srinagar.

CRPF IG V S Yadav told The Indian Express that the CRPF men were targeted as they were preparing for deployment. "The fidayeen militants had concealed their weapons in bags looking like cricket kits before they attacked the jawans,'' he said.

Officers who visited the spot said the militants carried out the attack from a ground where boys were playing cricket and four players were also injured. "The militants did not take shelter in any building but opened fire and tossed grenades towards CRPF jawans. The causality could have been higher had all the grenades exploded," said a police officer.

Locals said the attack took place around 10.45 am and firing stopped after half-an-hour. "First we heard some explosions and then firing started from all directions. After some time, many boys who were playing cricket at the police public school came out from the ground and took shelter in the neighboring locality, some of them had suffered injuries,'' said Shabir Ahmad, who lives close to the school.

"On hearing gun shots, we rushed towards the nearby residential colony. I was bleeding when I came out from the ground. Later, locals took me and my other injured friends to hospital," said Mudasir Ahmad Wani, who was playing cricket and was hit by splinters.

Fidayeen militants had last launched an attack in the Valley on January 6, 2010, targeting the CRPF in Srinagar's business area of Lal Chowk. Two militants and two security force personnel were killed in that attack which lasted 22 hours.

Security sources said that intelligence agencies had warned of a big militant strike in the city after the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. There were also intelligence inputs that four militants had sneaked into the city to attack security forces. A high alert was issued across the Valley after Wednesday's attack.

In the Sadipora Idgah locality, locals said CRPF jawans opened fire on Altaf Ahmad Wani when he was on his way home. "It was a revenge killing by the CRPF men. Altaf was a poor labourer and father of three daughters and was killed without any reason or provocation outside his house," said his neighbor Javid Ahmad.

There were no protests going on in Sadipora when CRPF men opened fire there, locals said.

CRPF IG Yadav, however, said the civilian was killed when CRPF men who were taking injured jawans to hospital were encircled and stones hurled at them by protestors. "Our jawans fired in self-defence,'' he said.

Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani called for a shutdown on Thursday to protest against the killing of Wani. Fearing protests and clashes, the government has decided to impose indefinite curfew in the city from Wednesday night.

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