Attacks Shatter Year-long Lull In Valley, 2 Killed

2 August 2009
Times of India

Srinagar: A seeming calm was shattered in the Kashmir valley on Saturday when after a lull of one year militants struck in the heart of Srinagar and in two separate incidents killed two security personnel. The shootouts also carried the grim reminder that Pakistan-sponsored terror hasn't disappeared from the Valley - the attack is suspected to have been carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the same murderous outfit that carried out the 26-11 attacks. Although Kashmir has never really been free of news, protests such as those after the Sopore and Baramullah crimes, were more of political nature with civilian groups clashing against the security forces. In fact, some observers have virtually said that these protests were a sign of normalcy. Saturday's shootouts were different - they were cold-blooded terror attacks aimed to kill. The killers carried out their attacks and melted away. While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, security and intelligence officers were likening the nature of the attacks to the operational style of LeT. As Srinagar SSP Riyaz Baidar said, the attack bore fingerprints of Lashkar-e-Taiba. CRPF spokesperson Prabhakar Tripathi said the first attack took place near Srinagar's central square of Lal Chowk. The attackers fired at a paramilitary patrol and critically wounded two. 'One of the two, B B Ghosh of CRPF's 132 Battalion later succumbed to his injuries,' he said. Minutes later, terrorists struck 2 km away and fatally shot a policeman, Mohammed Shafi Bhat, at Batmaloo area of the city. The attacks came just as a district convention of Congress was to begin in a nearby hotel at Regal Chowk. The convention went ahead on schedule. A police officer said the attacks in Srinagar's heavily-guarded city centre triggered panic as people ran for cover. 'Security forces cordoned off both areas to hunt down the attackers,' SSP Baidar said. 'We'll nab the militants responsible for the attacks,' he said. Authorities say terror activity in the state has fallen to its lowest levels since India and Pakistan began a peace process in 2004. Saturday's attack shows the terror operatives are dormant, perhaps even weaker than before, but they have not yet been neutralised. It is estimated that around 600 militants are still there in the state, in fractured groups, and without full cross-border back-up which they enjoyed until security forces succeeded to virtually seal the border with electric fencing. These attacks may complicate the state and Union governments' proposal for a phased reduction of the areas under coverage of the highly unpopular Armed Forces Special Powers Act which allows security personnel to search without warrant and call civilians for interrogation.