March 2000 News

''Breakthrough'' claimed in Kashmir massacre

24 March 2000

New Delhi: With the arrest of a local youth, the Government today claimed a ''major breakthrough'' in Monday''s massacre of 35 Sikhs in Kashmir and said that the trail led to the Pakistan- backed Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. At a hurriedly-called press conference here this evening, the Union Home Secretary, Mr. Kamal Pande, announced the arrest of Mohd Yaqoob Wagey, a 24-year-old resident of Chitti Singhpora, and said he had confessed that he had ''participated in the carnage.'' The massacre, according to Yaqoob, was carried out by a 17-member terrorist group predominantly comprising foreign mercenaries and armed with one Light Machine Gun (LMG) and 16 AK 47 rifles. Mr. Pande said that Wagey, who ran a medical store before he signed up with the militants a year ago, told the police during his interrogation that the group responsible for the March 20 massacre was jointly led by Abu Mahaj of the Laskhar and Saifullah of the Mujahideen. According to Wagey, they claimed to have ''orders'' to kill the Sikhs of the Chitti Singhpora. The terrorists, who wore army uniforms, pretended that they were conducting a raid. Earlier, the terrorists divided themselves into two groups and while one went to Akalipora Mohalla, the other which included Wagey descended on Shokeenpora Mohalla. Subsequently the male Sikhs were called out from their houses and while 18 were killed on the spot in Akalipora, 16 were shot dead in Shokeenpora. One died later of bullet wounds. Mr. Pande said that Laskhar had been responsible for most of the ''heinous terrorist outrages'' in Kashmir in the recent past. The Mujahideen had five local militants in the group.


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