Again, J&K policemen targeted: Four shot dead after top Hizbul commander is killed

The militants opened fire at the policemen at Bonagam in Shopian district, a police officer said.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | New Delhi | Updated: August 30, 2018 4:58:53 am
At the wreath laying ceremony for the four policemen who were killed in Shopian on Wednesday. (Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)

Hours after a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander was gunned down by security forces at Anantnag in J&K, terrorists Wednesday ambushed and killed four policemen outside a vehicle workshop in Shopian.

This marks the third high-profile attack on police personnel this year and comes just a week after an inspector and two constables were shot dead while on leave for Eid.

The four policemen killed Wednesday were part of an officer’s security detail and were out getting a police vehicle repaired when they were fired upon.

After the attack, the militants took away three rifles of the slain policemen and escaped.

Earlier in the day, security agencies said top Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander Altaf Ahmad Dar and an associate Umar Rashid were killed in an early morning operation in Anantnag’s Muniward village.

“Altaf Ahmed Dar was currently operating as one of the most important terrorist commanders of proscribed terror outfit HM,” a police spokesman said. “He had a long history of criminal records since 2007.”

Barely five hours after Dar was gunned down, militants attacked the police party.

“Terrorists, in the afternoon, fired indiscriminately upon a police party at Arhama in district Shopian. Four policemen sustained gunshot wounds and were evacuated to a nearby hospital for medical attention. However, all the four injured policemen succumbed,” a police spokesman said.

The slain policemen were identified as Constable Ishfaq Ahmad Mir, Constable Javid Ahmad Bhat, Constable Mohammad Iqbal Mir and Special Police Officer (SPO) Adil Manzoor Bhat.

Militant attacks on police in the Valley have surged this year and Wednesday’s attack is the third such in 2018. Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid Tuesday had said that 1,660 policemen have been killed by militants since the start of militancy in the Valley three decades ago.

In January this year, militants killed four policemen when they detonated a powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Sopore; last week, militants in one day killed three policemen — home on leave for Eid — in separate attacks in south Kashmir’s Kulgam and Pulwama districts.

In an interview to The Indian Express new Governor Satya Pal Malik had said that the “the issue of J&K policemen being targeted and killed came up” in a meeting with Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

“The Home Minister has also agreed that the compensation for families in case of the death of a J&K policeman is going to be increased and brought at par with the CRPF and the Army. This has also been cleared,” he said.

Malik also indicated that funds for construction of safe housing clusters for police personnel, of which there has been an acute shortage, had been given “in-principle” clearance.

Sources said that the four policemen killed were part of a senior police officer’s escort and had gone to repair their vehicle at Bonagam in Shopian. While the policemen were waiting outside the vehicle, a group of militants fired on them indiscriminately wounding four critically.

Police sources said that the militant attack was so sudden that the policemen had no time to retaliate. Only one policeman, sources said, survived the attack as he was inside the vehicle when they were attacked.

A wreath-laying ceremony of the slain policemen was held at District Police Lines (DPL) Shopian. Top police officers including DGP Vaid, ADGP Law and Order Muneer Ahmad Khan, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir S P Pani and Deputy Inspector General (DIG) south Kashmir Amit Kumar participated in the wreath-laying ceremony with top civil officers.

Police earlier had hailed the killing of Dar as a huge success and said that he was a deputy to Hizbul’s operational chief Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo and was second-in-command of the militant outfit. Dar alias Moin was categorized as an A++ militant and carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head. Last year, when the Army released the list of most wanted militant commanders, Dar figured at serial number 5.

A resident of Hawoora village in south Kashmir’s Kulgam, Dar first joined the militant ranks in 2006 but was arrested after some time. After his release in 2010, Dar recycled into militancy in 2011.

“Considered as a long time surviving terrorist in the area, he (Dar) was involved in a series of terror crimes in the area,” police said. “He was involved in several attacks on security forces and killings of civilians and policemen in the area.”

Police sources said that Dar was working as a militant over ground worker from a young age. “He was working with the militants much before he formally joined them,” said a senior police officer. “Since he recycled into militancy in 2011, he has kept the security agencies on tenterhooks.”

His father, Ghulam Mohammad Dar, was also a militant and was killed in the early Nineties when he was infiltrating into the Valley after arms training in Pakistan.

On Wednesday morning, a joint team of the J&K Police, Army and paramilitary forces cordoned off the Muniward village in Anantnag after specific inputs about the presence of militants. As the joint team zeroed in on the target house, militants opened fire triggering a gunfight in which both the trapped militants were killed.

The other slain militant was identified as Umar Rashid, a resident of Khudwani in Kulgam, who had joined militant ranks only last year.

Police said that Umar was responsible for killing CRPF personnel near Batamaloo Srinagar last month and that on August 12, Umar had escaped from the encounter site at Batamaloo in which a J&K Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel was killed and four security men injured.

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