LeT Fidayeen Strike At CRPF Camp On Boulevard
11 October 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: Over a year after the October 6th, 2006, suicide attack at Budshah Chowk, militants have launched a fidayeen strike on a CRPF formation on Boulevard in this capital city today. Even as the gunfight was in progress at Hotel Boulevard in Srinagar and Shumriyal in Kupwara, four militants and two soldiers had died by this evening in three separate gunbattles in north Kashmir. In a major IED blast, five soldiers and two labourers earlier died at a military encampment in Pattan area of Baramulla district. While Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was hosting a crowded Iftar Party at SKICC on the banks of Dal Lake this evening, militants stormed the heavily fortified Hotel Boulevard, headquarters of CRPF 144 Bn, at 1830 hours. A number of Azad's guests had minutes before taken the same route to SKICC, just a mile from Hotel Boulevard. CRPF spokesperson, Prabhakar Tripathi, told EXCELSIOR that one or two militants sneaked into the encampment while lobbing a grenade, followed by firing. He said that CRPF guards gunned down one militant and they were looking for another who had possibly taken shelter somewhere on the premises. Tripathi maintained that two CRPF personnel and a Safai Karamchari sustained injuries in the four-hour-long gunbattle. Senior CRPF officials, including a DIG and Commanding Officer of 144 Bn, were personally supervising the operation at around midnight. Spokesman of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi, told EXCELSIOR in a satellite telephonic conversation from Pakistan that three fidayeen of his organisation had stormed the camp in the evening. While claiming that three CRPF personnel had got killed and four more injured, Ghaznavi said that all the three participants in the suicide operation were in contact with the organisation. He said that their names would be declared in case they attained 'martyrdom'. He said that today's fidayeen strike, exclusively by militants of his organisation, was an answer to the Defence Minister A K Antony who had, the other day only, claimed that militants had been wiped out in Jammu and Kashmir. 'We are very much in command of the situation and possess ability to strike on hard targets at will', Ghaznavi asserted. Authoritative sources said that firing had subsided at around 2215 hours and CRPF would be searching room after room in the morning tomorrow to see if any of the militants were hiding on the premises. On the road leading to Dal Lake, SKICC, Raj Bhawan and Mughal Gardens, Hotel Boulevard is one among half a dozen buildings occupied by CRPF since 1990. Even as militants have earlier attacked two hotels at nearby Dalgate and another camp structure on the lake, it is for the first time that a suicide attack has occurred on this tourist attraction. Last fidayeen attack in Kashmir valley had taken place on October 6th, 2006, when about a dozen people had died in a major strike in the business hub of Budshah Chowk. Earlier today, DIG north Kashmir Dr B Srinivas said that an LPG cylinder blasted at a military canteen at Hamray in Pattan area on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road. It appeared that militants had planted a powerful IED inside a cylinder and managed to carry it inside the camp with a number of refills. They triggered off the bomb with a remote control device or a mobile phone and caused a massive explosion that rocked the whole formation. He said that five soldiers and two persons, who had been working as labourers, got killed and six soldiers sustained injuries. A Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman claimed that militants of his organisation managed to cause the blast inside the military canteen, killing six soldiers. A Defence spokesman said that it was an LPG blast which left two civilians dead and four soldiers injured. Informed sources in north Kashmir said that a group of unidentified militants, who had laid ambush in the wee hours, opened heavy volume of gunfire on a vehicle of RR 32 Bn which was in movement before positioning of ROP at Gund Kareem Khan in Rafiabad area of Baramulla district at 0730 hours today. Officials confirmed the death of two soldiers, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), and admitted that all the militants managed to escape without suffering any damage in retaliation from Army. Lashkar spokesman claimed that four soldiers got killed and six more injured. Sources said that on the basis of a specific information available with Police, SOG Bandipore, troops of 10 Para and RR 15 Bn launched a joint operation at Watrena, in outskirts of Bandipore town, on Bandipore-Sopore Road. According to the tip off, militants were hiding at the residences of Assadullah Khan and Ghulam Mohammad Mir. As soon as the militants found themselves trapped, they opened fire and began making desperate attempts to break the cordon. Consequently, a major gunbattle was triggered off which ran for three hours and left two militants dead. They included the most wanted 'Chief Operation Commander' of Jamait-ul-Mujahideen, Abu Hamza of Lahore, Pakistan, and his close associate Farazat Hussain of Poonch. DIG north Kashmir insisted that Abu Hamza, who had been active in Bandipore area since 1999 and was by name involved in killing a Municipal Councillor, was also wanted in the killing of one Syed Rehman of Dekshina and lastly a 45-year-old woman Zaitoona in the same area on October 8th. SDPO Sumbal said that the militant was responsible for killing of three counter-insurgents in Hajan, killing of four civilians in Chitti Bandi and a girl at Chak Arsalan Khan. The killings of Abu Hamza came in days of the death of Lashkar 'Divisional Commander' Abu Wafa and his deputy at Gamroo on October 4th. A top Commander of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, code named Danish, was neutralised by the Army at Lawaypora Khayar on October 9th . Sources said that two infiltrating militants were intercepted and killed by troops of 16- Jat in Budnambal area, not far away from LoC, in Kupwara district today. Sources said that they had been members of the same infiltration group that had sneaked into Valley in Keran sector and nine militants of it had been already killed in two operations earlier this month. Reports from Kupwara said that late tonight, yet another encounter commenced between militants and security forces at Shumriyal, close to Army's major formation at Chirkoot. Sources said that two to three militants had been trapped by SOG Kupwara and a unit of RR 28 Bn. Gunfight was going on when reports last came in at midnight.