In one of the worst attacks on J&K Police in recent times, militants targeted a cash van of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank in the south Kashmir district of Kulgam and killed five policemen, including an ASI, and two private security guards on Monday afternoon. The Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack. Before fleeing the spot, the militants also snatched four rifles of the policemen. The attack took place around 4 pm when the cash van belonging to the zonal office of the bank was returning to Kulgam after dropping Rs 18 lakh at the branch in Manzgam Ahrabal. Police said the van was intercepted by four-five militants, who were clad in combat fatigues, at Pumai village around 6 km from Kulgam town. The van driver, an employee of the bank, escaped unhurt.
Condemning the attack, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the killings “reflects the dangerous turn towards criminalisation the society is taking”. She also condemned the killing of two soldiers in the Krishna Ghati sector.
Mufti said she had been warning of the “ill-effects of violence time and again” and appealed to civil society to “rise to the occasion to make the future of our younger generation peaceful”. S P Pani, DIG, South Kashmir, told The Indian Express that five policemen and two civilians were killed when militants attacked the cash van. ‘’The militants fired indiscriminately on the cash van and the policemen and the guards inside were killed. Hizbul Mujahideen militants are responsible for this terrorist attack,’’ he said.
Pani said police have identified the militant module. ‘’The attack was carried out by the Umar group of Hizbul Mujahideen that is operating locally in Kulgam. We will hunt them down.’’ He said the militants took away four rifles from the policemen.
The dead have been identified as Assistant Sub Inspector Bashir Ahmad of Qazipora Kulgam, Constable (selection grade) Farooq Ahmad Bhat of Lokripora Kulgam, Constable Mohammed Qasim of Awoora Lolab, Constable Muzaffar Ahmad of Yarkushipora Kulgam, Constable Zahoor Ahmad of Zakoora Srinagar. The private guards killed were Muzaffar Ahmad Laway of Dahmal Hanjipora and Javid Ahmad Bhat of Vesu Kulgam.
The Hizbul Mujahideen, while claiming responsibility for the attack on the policemen, denied it had killed the two private guards.
J&K Bank corporate communications in-charge Sajjad Bazaz said the van was returning after dropping cash at a local branch in Kulgam when it was attacked by militants. ‘’The two guards killed were associated with a private agency, Perfect Security, that provides guards to the bank. The private guards were not bank employees and were unarmed.’’
In recent months, six banks have been robbed in south and central Kashmir. Other attempts have been foiled by bank employees and securitymen. Last Saturday, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant was captured by CRPF personnel when militants tried to snatch the rifles of jawans present outside a J&K Bank branch in Anantnag town.