2 fidayeen, 2 soldiers killed
15 June 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Excelsior Special Correspondent
Srinagar: With the death of two Pakistani fidayeen of Lashkar-e-Toiba in a shootout in Srinagar outskirts of Nowgam, two soldiers today died and nine others-including four soldiers-sustained injuries when militants ambushed an Army convoy in broad daylight in the heart of Sopore town in north Kashmir. Informed sources told EXCELSIOR that militants in ambush at Main Chowk, near the crowded Iqbal Market, in Sopore town opened fire on a military convoy which was on way to Bandipore at 1020 hours. Militants, who had taken position behind a parked Maruti-800 in a narrow alley lobbed a hand grenade and then directed volleys of gunfire on the convoy. Driver of a targeted vehicle got killed and four soldiers in two vehicles sustained gunshot wounds. Army's QRT retaliated but both the militants managed to escape with their arms and ammunition in a 10-minute crossfiring. While maintaining indiscriminate fire in all directions, the military convoy proceeded towards Bandipore. At Chinkipora, nearly 1 Km from the site of ambush, one Constable of 179 Bn 'S' Company was hit when he was watching the convoy from third storey of his camp. He died on spot. He was identified as Nisar Ahmed Lone of Janglat Mandi, Anantnag. A former militant, Lone had been recruited in CRPF after his surrender in 1997. When the firing subsided, five local civilians were also found injured. All but one had been discharged from hospital after medical treatment by this evening. Sources said that a military helicopter rushed all four of the injured soldiers to 92- Base Hospital in Srinagar. They were all reportedly out of danger. The shootout caused panic among students of the nearby Girls Higher Secondary School who began screaming after watching the two militants in action. Police reached the spot and rescued the students and fear-stricken teachers. A Police party conducted raid on a house but the inmates revealed that both the militants had just left after taking two Pherans from the family. Officials said that a broad daylight attack on security forces had occurred after a long time in Sopore but claimed that they were well on the track of the militants, identified as Abu Zarrar and Abu Qittal. They were believed to be members of a lately infiltrated group of Lashkar-e- Toiba. Sources said that having taken exception to Army's 'indiscriminate firing', IG CRPF rushed to Sopore alongwith IGP Kashmir and they conducted an inspection of the site of ambush as well as the CRPF camp, 1 Km away. Lashkar-e-Toiba spokesman, Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi, said over telephone that two militants of his organisation ambushed the convoy and returned safely to their hideout. He claimed that eight soldiers died and thirteen others sustained injuries in the dare-devil action. Officials, however, confirmed only two fatal casualties and maintained that only three soldiers and three civilians had sustained injuries. Meanwhile, SP Operations Srinagar, Mohammad Irshad, said that Police had arrested a Srinagar-based militant Abu Faisal, on a specific information last evening. In sustained interrogation, he disclosed that a suicide squad has sneaked into the capital city to carry out a sensational attack. 'Taking this disclosure very seriously, Srinagar Police swung into action and special Nakas were laid. Various suspected areas were put to comprehensive searches. The cordon and search continued in Rajbagh-Nowgam area throughout the night. At around 3 AM, this morning when a police party reached Gojbugh Nowgam, it came under fire from militants, who had taken shelter in a garden', Irshad said in a statement. 'In the ensuing gunbattle both the militants were neutralised. However one wanted militant Obaid alias Shahid was able to flee in an injured condition' he added. Two AK rifles, two pouches and five grenades were recovered from their possession. SP identified the slain militants as Abu Tufail and Abu Hafiz, both Pakistani cadres of Lashkar. Even as authorities claimed that the two militants died in an encounter with SOG Srinagar in the wee hours in Nowgam locality, the general impression in town was that it was the custodial killing of the same fidayeen duo that had been captured while attempting a suicide strike on Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at the time of his inspection of the under- construction complex of Institute of Hotel Management in Rajbagh last evening. As reported in this newspaper, Mr Azad had visited the spot alongwith Union Tourism Minister Ambika Soni. Sources said that Naib Subedar B K Singh died when he fell down in Sindh nullah after being hit by a shooting stone between Brarimarg and Railpatri sliding area on the Amarnath Yatra track in Baltal-Sonmarg belt last night.