Militants sneak into Samba, kill six before being gunned down

11 May 2008
The Indian Express
Arun sharma & Aditya V. Singh

Samba: Striking in a big way as Jammu and Kashmir gears for the Amarnath Yatra and the approaching Assembly elections, heavily armed militants, clad in Army fatigues, sneaked into a residential colony in Samba today and killed six persons, including a local politician, his wife and the chief photographer of the Daily Excelsior. The firefight with security forces ended more than 12 hours later when two militants, holed up inside a house, were gunned down. Troops rescued five of the six persons who had been taken hostage. A woman hostage died of injuries from militant fire as did two jawans. At least 12 persons were injured, among them SP (Operation) Mubasar Latifi, an Army Major, a police inspector, two jawans and a TV cameraman. Though the identity of the militants has not yet been established, an official said they were suspected to be from the Lashkar-e-Toiba based in Pakistan. The attack came two days after the BSF claimed to have foiled an infiltration bid from across the international border. It is suspected that the two militants were part of the same group who had engaged the BSF after snipping the barbed wire fencing along the border. On Saturday, troops and police had seized 10 kg of RDX and ammunition in huge quantity from the forests of Raya Suchaini in Samba. The presence of the militants in Kehli Mandi was detected only after they opened fire at Hoshiyar Singh, president of the newly formed Indian National Democratic Party, who tried to stop them from entering his house early this morning. While Singh and his wife, Shashi Bala, died on the spot, his daughter Bindu and mother-in-law Darshna Devi were injured. Taken by surprise, security forces and the local police rushed to the area and cordoned off the house. While the firefight was on, the militants moved to another house, taking six persons hostage. As word spread, people gathered in large numbers to watch the firefight. The media too reached the spot. Around 8 am, a militant bullet killed Ashok Sodhi, chief photographer of Daily Excelsior. He was hit in the head. As the firefight raged, militants fired from grenade launchers, prompting security forces to remove onlookers from the area. People from adjoining houses were evacuated to safer places by the troops. At the end of the operation which lasted over 12 hours, Lt Gen Vinay Sharma, GOC of IX Corps, said that the militants managed to hold on for so long time because they were heavily armed. Lt Gen Sharma, who was accompanied by IG BSF A K Surrolia and IGP K Rajendra, said there was no information whether the slain militants were part of the same group which had engaged the BSF earlier. But he said they had received inputs that militants were making attempts to sneak into the state even via the international border. “We are keeping a watch on the situation and have accordingly stepped up our vigil,” he said. Another official said that the militants, by making bids to breach the international border, wanted to “divert attention from the passes along the Line of Control where the snow has started melting with the onset of summer”. In 2002, militants entered an Army camp at Kaluchak on the Jammu-Pathankot highway, killing two dozen people, mostly women and children.