May 2006 News

Militants target Srinagar rally, 6 killed

21 May 2006
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Srinagar: Six persons were killed and 35, including the Inspector General of Police (Kashmir zone), injured on Sunday in a terrorist attack on a Congress rally here. The rally was organised by the Youth Congress to mark the 15th death anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Two militants, in police uniform, entered the Sher-e- Kashmir Park at 1.15 p.m. and one of them started firing indiscriminately at the podium. The attack comes amid preparations for the two-day second roundtable on Jammu and Kashmir that begins here on Wednesday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is chairing it. Claim responsibility Al Mansoorian and Lashkar-e-Taiba have claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement to a local news agency, they said their men executed it. Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was scheduled to arrive at the rally minutes after. A number of Ministers, who were present at the venue, escaped unhurt. Mr. Azad visited the spot after the operation against the militants ended. He said the attack was a desperate bid by militants to show their presence. Witnesses told The Hindu that when the two militants, part of a fidayeen (suicide squad), entered the park, a police constable tried to question them and he was shot dead immediately. One of the militants then started firing towards the podium, leaving a number of people in pools of blood. But he could not fire at the Ministers and Congress leaders, as they had taken cover. 'For quiet sometime, the police and para-military men allowed him to continue firing as they thought he was a policeman responding to an attack,' Deputy Inspector General of CRPF (Operations) S.R. Ojha said. Soon the security forces realised that he was a militant and started retaliating. When IG (Kashmir zone) K. Rajendra pointed towards him, the militant fired at him. Mr. Rajendra, DSP Faisal Ahmed, SHO Shabir Ahmed and a sub-inspector were injured. Soon, both the militants were gunned down. Deputy Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range) Farooq Ahmed said two policemen and three civilians were killed. One person died of his injuries in a hospital. Confusion prevailed for sometime as people ran to save themselves. Securitymen and drivers moved out the Ministers and leaders. 'I do not know anything except that a policeman was firing,' said Abdul Majid, a Congress worker from Kokernag. 'It was mayhem,' said another worker from Baramulla. Chaos prevailed for some time, with the police and para-military forces firing in the air from all the directions. Many journalists were trapped in the park along with hundreds of people for some time. It was a brave Ishfaqul Hassan who managed to come out and secure a vehicle for his colleagues. 'We hid ourselves in a corner with firing all round,' said a journalist. The scribes, including this reporter, who rushed to the spot immediately, had a tough time gathering information, as all routes were sealed and firing continued from all directions. On Saturday, four militant outfits, which attacked the Tourist Reception Centre last year on the eve of opening of the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad road, threatened to disrupt the roundtable. They are, Al Arifeen, Farzandan-e-Millat, Save Kashmir Movement and Al Nasreen. Ban on rallies PTI reports: The Jammu and Kashmir Government, late in the night, banned all political rallies in the State for the next two days. The decision was taken to ensure a smooth visit for the Prime Minister. People's Conference chairman Sajjad Ahmed Lone's proposed rally to pay tributes to his slain father Abdul Ghani Lone would be the only one affected by the ban.


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