Surfacing after a hiatus of more than three years, fidayeen (suicide squad) in a daring attack stormed a paramilitary CRPF camp here on Wednesday, killing at least five troopers and injuring 10 others, including four civilians. Two of the four-member squad, believed to be Pakistani nationals, were also killed in retaliatory firing.
Police said two heavily armed militants disguised as cricketers, opened fire with automatic rifles and lobbed grenades at Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel near Police Public School in Bemina bypass at 10:45 am. The encounter lasted at least three hours.
Sources said the fidayeen entered the CRPF complex in cricket gear, carrying what looked like a sports kit from which they pulled out automatic rifles and started firing.
In-charge police media centre DySP Manoj Pandita said the fidayeen attacked CRPF men who were preparing for law and order deployments. “Five CRPF jawans sacrificed their lives while two militants were also killed in the attack. Four civilians and six CRPF men were injured,” he said.
The CRPF men who were killed are ASI A B Singh, constables Om Prakash, L Parmol, Shubash and Satisa. The injured are SI Ashok Kumar, constables Jeevan Kishore, A R Rarveen, T Bharat Bai, Goswami Yadesh and Ram Prasad.
Security forces recovered a huge quantity of arms and ammunition from the slain militants. The camp attacked is surrounded by the Police Public School and several government buildings. However, the school was closed due to a strike called by separatists in support of their demand for return of the mortal remains of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Bemina area is a strategic location as it houses several vital installations belonging to the CRPF, Army and the state government.
Police sources told Deccan Herald that two out of the four fidayeen managed to escape after the attack.
“The attack began when three to four militants got out of a car outside the school near the camp and, disguised in cricket gear, walked across the school playground to the camp and shot dead a sentry before firing indiscriminately into the base,” Police said. Two fidayeen managed to escape taking advantage of the ensuing panic due to the sound of gun shots, grenades exploding and shutters of shops being pulled.
However, Police was tight lipped about the reported escape. Police maintains that only two fidayeen attacked the camp and both were killed.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (Central Kashmir range) Afadul Mujtaba told reporters at the encounter site that both the militants who posed as cricketers and carried out the attack were killed.
Asked if the security forces were caught off guard, he said, “We are prepared for such attacks. But they (forces) were in law and order mode and taking advantage of that the militants struck. In future we will take care of that.”
Hizb warns more hits
He said search and cordon operations are being carried out in the area. CRPF Director General Pranay Sahay is on his way to Srinagar to take stock of the situation.
Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit claimed responsibility for the attack. A local news agency, quoting tele-statement of Hizb spokesman Baleeg-ud-Din, said their cadre carried out the attack on CRPF camp.
“It was a guerrilla attack and Hizb militants will carry out such attacks in future also,” he warned.
This was the first suicide attack in Kashmir in more than three years with the last such incident taking place in January 2010.
On March 2, militants had shot dead two policemen in Handwara area of Kupwara district.