Five Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed and three injured in a pre-dawn attack by suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants on a CRPF training centre in Lethpora, in Pulwama district of South Kashmir.
Officials said while two militants — both from the Valley — had been killed, intermittent firing was still going on till late Sunday, and one or two militants were believed to be holed up inside the camp. According to reports, two-four heavily-armed militants stormed the centre at 2:10 am. “It is a big camp. It was at 2.10 am… The militants first fired at a patrol vehicle and then sneaked inside the camp,” said CRPF Public Relations Officer (PRO) Rajesh Yadav.
Sources said the militants stormed the main building area of the camp, which houses the family quarters, main offices, hospital and signal centre. “It seems they had done a recce of the area. Once inside, they immediately took shelter in Block Number 3, which houses a hospital, signal centre and stores,” said sources, adding, “The adjacent blocks house the officers’ family quarters and their offices”. They said about two dozen CRPF personnel were inside the building when the militants stormed the camp. The Army and J&K police rushed to the area, and their first task was to evacuate the personnel.
Yadav said that while the bodies of two militants had been recovered, one or two militants were still holed up inside the camp. “Our forces on the ground reported that another militant was killed. But when they went to recover the body, they came under heavy fire,” he said. “From the volume of fire, we suspect that one or two militants are still inside,” he said, adding that a tight security cordon had been set up around the camp.
The slain CRPF personnel have been identified as Inspector Kuldeep Roy, Head Constable Tufail Ahmad, and Constables Sharifuddin Ganai, Rajender Jain and Pradeep Kumar Panda. Ganai is a resident of Chadoora in Budgam district. Yadav said one of the CRPF personnel “collapsed during the evacuation process”. “We are waiting for the post-mortem report,” he added.
Sources said the two militants whose bodies have been recovered have been identified as Fardeen Ahmad Khanday, 17, a resident of Hyena village of Tral, and Manzoor Ahmad Baba, from Drabgam in Pulwama. Fardeen, the son of a police constable, is reported to have joined the JeM in May this year. “We are still trying to identify the bodies,” said Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, Munir Ahmad Khan. “Two families — one from Pulwama and the other from Tral — have claimed the bodies,” he added.
Police sources said they had received intelligence inputs over the last few days about a possible attack on a military installation. An alert had been sounded in the Valley, especially Srinagar and South Kashmir, they said. “There were inputs over the last two-three days that they (militants) were attempting an attack,” said Director General of Police S P Vaid. “The attack is unfortunate. As long as our neighbour (Pakistan) keeps sending people like this, the police, security forces and people of Kashmir will have to go through this,” he added.
“We had inputs about a possible fidayeen attack. There were inputs that JeM militants based in South Kashmir were planning a spectacular attack in Srinagar. We were on alert and had increased checking of vehicles,” said a senior police officer. “After the killing of JeM commander Noor Mohammad Tantray, I think they (militants) abandoned the idea of striking in Srinagar and chose South Kashmir instead”. “Efforts to track the fidayeen led the police to (Samboora) Pulwama, where Tantray was killed,” said the police officer. “Tantray was behind the resurgence of JeM in the Valley, especially South Kashmir, and was the brain behind the recent attacks by the outfit.”