November 2002 News

Two Jammu temples attacked, nine dead

24 November 2002
The Indian Express

Jammu: In a serious setback to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s efforts to bring militants back to the mainstream and promote a dialogue, two shrines in Jammu, including Raghunath Temple, were attacked this evening leading to prolonged encounters. Late tonight nine people had been confirmed dead and 44 injured in the two incidents. Unconfirmed reports from the Government Medical College Hospital, however, put the toll at 12 and the injured over 50. While the Raghunath Temple encounter ended early around 10.30 p.m with one militant — the only one, said the police and security forces — shot dead, another was drawing to an end around 1.30 a.m at a temple just 300 metres away. One militant holed up in a saw mill there had been killed. Whether there were more militants who managed to escape is not known. Though no militant outfit claimed responsibility for the attacks, police sources said the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e- Mohammad were suspected to be behind the incidents. Apprehending trouble in view of the tension, the administration tonight imposed indefinite curfew in the city. The Chief Minister cancelled his Iftar party to be held here tomorrow. Five of the dead have been identified as ASI Balwinder Singh of the Special Operation Group of the state police, K K Pandey of the CRPF’s 79 Bn, Rakesh Dutta and his son of Pathankot, besides Akbar, who was staying at a hotel on Residency Road. Singh was accompanying SP (Operations) Manohar Singh inside Ragunath Temple. According to sources and eyewitness accounts, two to three militants came to the crowded Hari Market around 7 pm and set off an explosion. Taking advantage of the ensuing panic, at least one of them managed to enter the temple through a small gate opening on the market side. Around the same time, some militants struck at the busy Residency Road facing the main gate of Ragunath Temple and opened fire on a local dhaba, injuring two persons. They then moved towards Panjbakhtar Road and killed a person standing outside a saw mill. They also hurled a grenade towards Panjbakhtar Temple but it did not cause any damage. The police and security forces rushed to both spots and cordoned off the area. There had been no contact with those on the Panjbakhtar side for quite sometime — only one militant was found later — when suddenly there was firing on the police and security forces. The entire area was plunged in darkness with the residents asked to stay indoors. The attack on temples, which has come soon after the militant strike on Akshardham in Gujarat, is the second in Jammu city this year. In an earlier attack on Ragunath Temple last March, two militants had killed five people. They were later killed by the police. Earlier, as the police and security forces started zeroing on the militant inside Ragunath Temple, the latter hurled hand-grenades. At least three explosions were heard inside the shrine. Meanwhile, the policemen were evacuating the pilgrims from inside the temple. A K Suri, DGP of J&K Police, reached Raghunath Temple at about 7.30 pm but refused to answer any questions. How the militant entered the temple remained a mystery. Police said the militant came from the back which is unguarded; eyewitnesses, however, said the militant had entered from a small gate on the Hari Market side. At the main temple entrance, policemen and CRPF men are stationed round the clock ever since the first militant attack on the temple. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Pradesh Congress Committee president Ghulam Nabi Azad condemned the attacks, saying this was an attempt to sabotage the ongoing peace initiative. Meanwhile, about 2,000 people gathered outside Ragunath Temple and held a demonstration against the CM. After the operation was over, people entered the temple premises to find pockmarked walls and some other damage. There was widespread panic in the city with people staying indoors. Business establishments in most parts of the city were closed and vehicular traffic went off the roads.


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