Srinagar, March 16 (IANS) Militants struck twice in a day in the Kashmir Valley, killing two civilians and a policeman and injuring eight people, three of them securitymen, Tuesday. The rebels opened fire in the capital city’s crowded business centre of Lal Chowk and then attacked a police patrol in Sopore town.
A shop worker was killed and two civilians and two troopers were injured in the Lal Chowk militant attack – the second in the city in three days, police said.
City police chief Javaid Riyaz told IANS that three militants opened fire with automatic weapons from a close range at a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) posse in the main business hub of the city when the area was bustling with shoppers in the morning.
He said five people — three civilians and two CRPF troopers — were injured in the firing before the guerrillas escaped in the labyrinthine lanes of Lal Chowk, the heart of Srinagar.
‘One injured civilian identified as Khurshid Ahmad Parray, a salesman in a shop, succumbed to injuries in a hospital,’ Riyaz said.
Panic gripped the area and people, mostly shoppers, were seen running for cover when they heard gunshots. Shopkeepers downed their shutters and unattended vehicles remained parked on the deserted roads for hours.
The area was cordoned off for searches but the militants had already fled in the high tension and confusion that gripped the busy business centre.
No militant group has owned up the responsibility for the Srinagar attack, which comes after a grenade explosion Sunday killed a paramilitary trooper and left five injured. The grenade attack was claimed by Save Kashmir Movement militant outfit, which is believed to be a joint brigade of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen terror groups.
Militants in the evening struck in Sopore town, over 50 km from here, killing a civilian and a policeman and injuring three civilians and a cop.
‘A special police officer (SPO), Ishaq Hussain, and a civilian were killed,’ a police officer in the town said. The injured were taken to a hospital for treatment.
Meanwhile, the condition of the troopers and two civilians injured in the Lal Chowk firing was described by doctors as critical. They have been shifted to a sophisticated hospital because of ‘critical injuries’, the city police chief said.
The two CRPF troopers are constable Basant Kumar and head constable Omkar Ram of 132 Battalion.
Lal Chowk, which lies in the heart of the city, has been at the centre of 20-year-old armed separatist insurgency in the Kashmir Valley. The attack is the latest in the surge of violence in Jammu and Kashmir where officials had been claiming decline in militancy. Security agencies, however, fear that militants might have used the lull in the past year to re-group.
Security forces across the Kashmir Valley have been put on high alert in the wake of the renewed guerrilla activities in recent days.