IN THE second attack on security personnel in the Valley in four days, one Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police and two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed when militants targeted a security checkpoint in Baramulla district on Monday morning.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar said the attack was carried out by three militants. Two of them, including a top commander of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, were killed in a gunfight during a cordon-and-search operation launched after the attack.
Two Army personnel were injured during the search operation, and one is reported to be critical. The operation was still on till late night.
According to security officials, the militants opened indiscriminate fire on a joint team of CRPF and J&K Police personnel when they were setting up a security checkpoint at Kreeri, in Baramulla district of north Kashmir.
“There was a joint checkpoint of police and CRPF in the area. The militants, taking advantage of the dense orchards, fired indiscriminately on the joint team,” a police officer said.
While a J&K Special Police Officer (SPO) died on the spot, two CRPF personnel succumbed to their injuries in hospital.
Following the attack, the police and CRPF team cordoned off the area where the militants were suspected to be hiding and launched a search operation. The Army also joined the operation. As the joint team closed in on their hideout, the militants opened fire, triggering a gunfight. Two militants were killed in the encounter which lasted several hours.
Officials said two Army personnel were injured when the third militant involved in the attack opened fire on the search team. They were rushed to hospital, where one is reported to be critical.
While both the dead militants have been identified as local residents, police said the third militant, who is yet to be caught, is most likely a “foreigner”.
“It was a shoot-and-run attack by the militants, but they were not lucky this time,” said a police officer. “As the security cordon was launched immediately, they didn’t get enough time to escape from the area, and were later killed in the exchange of fire,” he said. Police said they had recovered an AK-47 rifle and a pistol from the dead militants.
Police said the militants were from the Lashkar-e-Toiba, and identified one of the dead militants as Sajad Ahmad Mir (28), a top commander of the outfit. A resident of Brath Kalan village in Sopore, Mir was a ‘category A’ militant and was suspected to be involved in several attacks on security forces in north Kashmir.
“He joined militancy in 2016. What Burhan Wani was in south Kashmir, he (Mir) was in north Kashmir,” said Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh.
Singh said Mir had planned the attack on BJP leader Sheikh Wasim Bari in Bandipore on July 8. Bari, his father and brother were killed in the attack.
“He had a long criminal record. He was the brain behind the killing (of Bari and his family). He was involved in the attack on the CRPF in Sopore, in which one CRPF man was killed and four were injured,” he said.
“He was the top LeT commander of north Kashmir and was definitely among the top 10 commanders in Kashmir,” said Singh.
The last four months have seen a surge in militant attacks, especially in north and central Kashmir, signalling a shift away from south Kashmir. On Friday, two policemen were killed and another was injured in an attack in Nowgam.
Meanwhile, an Assistant Sub Inspector of the CRPF was injured in another militant attack in South Kashmir. A CRPF spokesman said militants opened fire on their camp at Nehama village, in Kulgam district. Security personnel have cordoned off the area and launched a search operation.