In the third death in a suspected sniper attack by militants in the past week, a CISF official was killed at Nowgam on the outskirts of Srinagar early Saturday morning. Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Rajendra Prasad was shot in the face around 1 am, while guarding a power grid station, and succumbed to his injuries.
While police have officially termed the attack as “stand-off fire” by militants, a letter issued to senior police officers on October 24, by Kashmir IGP S P Pani has expressed concern over militants resorting to sniper attacks to target the forces, and suggested safety measures like raising the height of walls around camps. If confirmed, this would be the first instance of snipers targeting forces in the long history of militancy in the Valley.
“In the last few days, terrorists have carried out two sniper attacks in SKR (South Kashmir Region),” Pani’s letter, accessed by The Sunday Express, said, talking of the October 18 attack on a CRPF camp at Newa Pulwama, wounding two CRPF men, and another at Midoora, Tral, on October 21, on a security camp, killing an SSB jawan. In another suspected sniper attack, on October 25 at Lurgam in Tral, an Armyman was killed and another injured.
The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the attack on Prasad, as well as the other two deaths in South Kashmir. Police sources say at least four more attacks in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district this month may be from sniper fire.
Refusing to say if they were looking at a sniper angle, ADGP, Law and Order, Munir Ahmad Khan told The Sunday Express, “Every killing is being investigated… which weapon has been used. We have no confirmation as of now.”
Pani’s letter said, “We need to sensitize our men in this new trend of terrorist attacks. Secondly, we should deny the snipers a clear line of sight by increasing the height of walls around our camping locations. Further location of sentry posts and their design may also be given due attention, to avoid getting hit by a sniper bullet… We also need to organise regular patrolling in the vicinity of our camps so that potential snipers could be denied space and access to carry out sniper attacks.”
Police sources said that if it was confirmed that militants had snipers with them, it would force a review of security of high-value targets such as senior politicians, bureaucrats and officials.
The police statement on the Nowgam attack said, “In the intervening night a standoff fire by militants took place at the grid Station Wagoora in Nowgam area in which one ASI of CISF sustained serious bullet injuries. The attack was successfully repulsed by the alert sentry at the spot.”
While forces cordoned off the area to search for militants after the attack, no arrests have been made.
In the October 21 incident, the SSB jawan was talking with his family on a cellphone inside his camp when he was hit in the head. In both the October 18 and October 25 incidents, the personnel who were hit were on night duty at sentry posts.
“Since all these attacks were carried out in the dark, it seems the sniper rifles being used are fitted with night vision devices,” a police officer said.