20 Injured As Omar Survives Grenade Attack In Handwara
9 July 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: National Conference president survived a grenade attack today at his rally in Handwara area even as 5 Police and CRPF personnel and 15 civilians sustained injuries in the blast. Meanwhile, nearly 20 Police personnel and 30 civilians sustained injuries in ding-dong clashes between Police and demonstrators over the death of a civilian in downtown last week. Informed sources told EXCELSIOR that Omar Abdullah was taking tea inside the fenced orchard of his local party leader Mohammad Iqbal Malla, after concluding his rally at Sopur Naghama, on Baramulla-Langet Road, in Handwara area, when a rifle grenade fired by suspected militants exploded about 100 yards from the canopy. As the blast caused panic and left over 20 people, including five CRPF and J&K Police personnel injured, Omar was quickly girdled by his security and escort personnel and rushed to the interior of his host's house. In the next 20 minutes, he came out and drove straightaway to his Srinagar residence. 'Taking tea under a canopy in the nearby orchard, we got frightened by the blast followed by gunshots in the air. I was quickly led to the inside of my host's house by my security staff. We were told that it was a rifle grenade fired from a distance. We are all safe but unfortunately some of our party activists and security personnel are reportedly injured', Omar told this newspaper from his Gupkar Road residence. He said that a number of senior NC leaders, including Dr Mehboob Beig, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Sharifuddin Shariq, Dy Speaker in Assembly Mohammad Akbar Lone, Qaisar Jamsheed Lone and Nasir Sogami, were with him under the canopy when the blast occurred at 1530 hours. He said that a large number of people participated in the rally that had been organised by MLA Langet Sharifuddin Shariq and other party leaders. SP Handwara, Dr Haseeb Mughal, said that a militant lobbed the grenade when the security bandobust was closing in for pack up. He claimed that it was a hand grenade and added that Police had found its green colour lever at the spot. He said that two Gypsies of Police and CRPF, one bus of Police, two Maruti cars and two scooters of civilians were damaged in the explosion. According to him, three CRPF men, two Police personnel and five civilians were under treatment at Drugmulla, Handwara and Baramulla hospitals while as six of the civilians with minor injuries had been discharged after getting first aid. He insisted that a total of 16 persons sustained injuries and only one CRPF constable was critical. SP Handwara said that nearly 3,000 people participated in the rally and most of them were home-bound when the blast took place. Omar, who has survived over a dozen attempts on his life in the last nine years of his political career and has been moving under Z-plus security cover, was attacked by suspected militants for the first time in the last over one year. With improvement in situation, he has considerably increased the frequency of his visiting far-flung areas and organising presentable public meetings in both Kashmir and Jammu divisions this year. After a 10-day-long series of rallies in Rajouri and Poonch districts, Omar has shifted to the Valley and has addressed nearby a dozen public meetings in the last seven weeks. Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, JKLF Chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik and head of the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, have emerged as Omar's competitors in the Valley though Chairman of the moderate Hurriyat, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and People Conference leader, Sajjad Gani Lone, have also addressed some political rallies in Ganderbal, Pattan and Kupwara areas. Barring a reported attempt on Chief Minister in Bandipore, no untoward incident has marred these political congregations. At today's rally in Handwara, Omar targetted Chief Minister's Jihad against corruption, which has been Mr Azad's main subject in most of his speeches in the last three months. Omar challenged Azad to take any action against 'ten of his most corrupt ministers' and claimed that each of them was enjoying luxury of power with New Delhi's blessings. He alleged that leaders of the coalition Government had 'cheated' the people and indulged in corruption with impunity in the last five years. He said that Mr Azad was the lonely soldier against corruption and he was now publicly admitting that State Accountability Commission as well as State Vigilance Organisation had failed to proceed against the corrupt politicians. He announced that he would take retirement from politics if Mr Azad succeeded in taking reasonable action against his 'corrupt' ministers. He alleged that corruption had become order of the day in the coalition Government and inspite of multi-fold increase in the flow of funds from the Centre, there were no traces of development. 'We have committed mistakes while in power but we have never cheated the people with hollow slogans like healing touch and withdrawal of troops', Omar is reported to have said. Meanwhile, downtown Srinagar today remained disturbed on the third consecutive day in protest against the death of a demonstrator in Police action. As already reported, class 10th student, Muntazar Ahmed Khan S-o Mudassar Ahmed Khan R-o Nayidkadal, had died when he was hit by a tearsmoke shell in Nowhatta area on Friday last. Downtown residents, dominated by followers of the Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, took to the streets on the third consecutive day today. While burning rubber tyres, shouting slogans against armed forces and Police and pelting stones, they alleged that the young student had been killed in target firing. When situation worsened, authorities imposed undeclared curfew, dispersed the demonstrators with the use of baton charge and tearsmoke and restricted all movement in several localities which were already shut in protest for the third day. Police officials denied imposition of curfew and maintained that section 144 of CrPC remained implemented with force. They said about two dozen people, including 8 Police and CRPF personnel were injured in ding-dong clashes. Reliable sources, however, insisted that as many as 30 civilian demonstrators and 20 Police and paramilitary personnel sustained injuries. They said that with the use of force, Police swooped on the function of Khan's Rasm-e-Chaharum and forced all the participants to withdraw. Later, members of High Court Bar Association staged a protest demonstration. They alleged that a number of separatist leaders were forcibly removed by Police from Khan's Rasm-e-Chaharum. They said that Bar Association would boycott the courts in protest on Tuesday.