Suspected militants shot dead five labourers from West Bengal in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on the day when an unofficial EU delegation visited the Valley to assess the situation after the abrogation of Article 370 three months ago.
The five killed Tuesday evening have been identified as Naimuddin Sheikh, Murshalim Sheikh, Rafikul Sheikh, Rafique Sheikh and Kamaruddin Sheikh, all from Bahalnagar village in Murshidabad’s Sagardighi.
Officials said another labourer from the same village was injured in the firing and is undergoing treatment in Srinagar.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Murshidabad SP Mukesh Kumar said: “I have spoken to Kulgam Police, we are looking into other details.” West Bengal police sources said the labourers worked in an apple orchard.
Tuesday’s attack is the sixth in a string of incidents targeting non-residents in south Kashmir, and the second in 24 hours, taking the death toll to 11.
We are shocked and deeply saddened at the brutal killings in Kashmir. Five workers from Murshidabad lost their lives. Words will not take away the grief of the families of the deceased. All help will be extended to the families in this tragic situation
Six persons, including four truckers, a fruit trader and a labourer, had earlier been killed in similar attacks. On Monday evening, suspected militants shot dead a trucker from Jammu after he had parked his apple-laden vehicle on a road in Anantnag district.
The latest attack came after a group of EU MPs met local government and civilian representatives, and security officials in Srinagar. It also came on a day when the Valley witnessed protests against the clampdown in place even as around 65,000 school students appeared in the Class 10 annual examination.
Deputy Commissioner Kulgam Showkat Ajaz told The Indian Express that militants barged into the rented accommodation of the labourers in Katrasoo village, led them out and shot them about 200m away.
A senior officer at the police control room in Kulgam said they received a call about the attack around 8 pm. The area was cordoned off by security forces and a manhunt launched to nab the attackers, the officer said.
Dr Abdul Rashid, Block Medical Officer (Kulgam), said the injured labourer, identified as Johiruddin Sarkar, was shifted to the district hospital and referred to Srinagar for treatment. Dr Muzaffar Zargar, medical superintendent at the district hospital, said the “deceased had multiple bullet wounds”.
In a Twitter post Tuesday night, Deputy Commissioner (Srinagar), Shahid Choudhary, wrote: “The news from south of the Valley is utterly shocking, condemnable. These five men were in construction sector. Attacks in earlier weeks have been on people connected with fruit trade. Need no further guesses.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Kashmir IGP S P Pani said: “It is a gruesome terror crime in which five civilians were killed and another injured. The police is on the spot and investigations have been started.”
The series of attacks started on October 14, where a truck driver from Rajasthan was killed and his vehicle set ablaze in Shopian.
On October 16, a 30-year-old labourer from Chhattisgarh was killed in nearby Pulwama. On the same evening, a fruit trader from Punjab was killed and associate critically injured in Shopian. On October 24, two non-resident truckers were shot dead in Shopian.
Officials in West Bengal said Jammu and Kashmir, and Kerala, were among the states where workers from Murshidabad migrate for work because of the lack of infrastructure and poverty in the district.