IN THE first major terror attack after the car bombing in Pulwama that prompted the Balakot airstrikes, militants Wednesday targeted a CRPF deployment in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, killing five personnel.
Three other personnel and a J&K Police officer were injured in the attack. A militant, believed to be a foreign national, was killed in retaliatory fire while his associate is believed to have escaped.
Officials said the attack took place near a private school on KP Road in Anantnag town around 4.50 pm, when the two militants arrived on a motorcycle and opened fire at personnel of the 116 Battalion who were posted in the area to maintain law and order.
Officials said three CRPF men died on the spot while two succumbed to injuries in hospital.
May loom over SCO summit
This is the biggest attack on security forces in J&K after the Pulwama bombing and will likely hang over the Bishkek summit, which Prime Minister Modi and Pakistan PM Imran Khan will attend. It comes days after Modi called for a global coalition against terror.
Those who died have been identified as Assistant Sub Inspectors Ramesh Kumar and Nirod Sharma, and constables Satendra Kumar, Mahesh Kumar and Sandeep Yadav. Police said Anantnag Station House Officer (SHO), Arshid Khan, was among those injured.
CRPF sources said the militants opened “indiscriminate fire” as the forces were preparing to withdraw from the area. SHO Khan sustained bullet wounds as he rushed to the spot after the initial burst of gunfire. Khan and the other injured personnel were shifted to the Army’s 92 base hospital in Srinagar.
“One terrorist has been killed and his body recovered along with an AK-47 rifle. From the material recovered, it has been found that the dead terrorist was a foreigner,” said J&K Police.
M M Kawoosa, principal of the Oxford Presentation School near the attack site, said no student was harmed. “Fortunately, the school had been closed for the day and there was no student inside. The few people present are safe,” he said. “There was heavy firing… there was panic everywhere and everyone ran for safety,” a local resident, who runs a business near the site, said.
Dr Abdul Majid Merab, medical superintendent at the Anantnag district hospital, said three CRPF men were declared brought dead. “An SHO sustained injuries on the chest and has been referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment. A girl sustained injuries on the foot and is currently undergoing treatment,” he said.
In Delhi, intelligence sources said there was no clarity on the group that the attackers belonged to but added that such attacks are regularly carried out by Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT. “The slain terrorist does not appear to be a local and may have come from across the border. But it will take some time to confirm that,” said sources.
In Srinagar, a local news agency claimed that they received a statement over the phone from a little-known outfit, Al-Umar Mujahedeen, claiming responsibility for the attack.
Al-Umar was founded by Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, who was among the three militants released in the IC-814 hijack and said to be currently based in Pakistan. Once an active group in Srinagar, it has little presence on the ground now. Security officials, however, said they could not confirm the claim.
On February 14, a local militant rammed his explosive-laden car into a paramilitary convoy killing 40 CRPF personnel at Leithpora in Pulwama. The attack was later claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
Security forces have since intensified anti-militancy operations in the valley — this year, more than 100 militants, including top commanders, have been killed in encounters.
(With ENS, Delhi)