SRINAGAR: Two separate militant strikes killed three policemen in Srinagar on Monday, forcing authorities to sound a high alert and launch a hunt for the extremists behind the first major attacks in the city in years.
By late evening, Srinagar’s Monday had turned bloodier with reports of a fierce gunbattle between militants and security forces in which a top Jaish-e-Mohammad commander and another militant were said to have been killed.
In the morning incident, extremists shot two cops from close range at the Mill Stop in the Zadibal area that connects the city to the Hazratbal Shrine and a hospital in Soura, a police officer said.
The duo, assistant sub-inspector Ghulam Mohammad and head constable Nazir Ahmad, died of bullet wounds, he said.
Hours later, policeman Mohammad Shafi was killed in the city’s Tengpora area
on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. The militants took away his service rifle.
Sources said the attackers are on the run on a motorcycle. A massive search was launched in the city with security personnel putting up barricades to check vehicles and frisk pedestrians.
The Hizbul Mujahideen extremist group that has bases in Pakistan-administered Kashmir claimed responsibility.
Hizbul operational spokesperson Burhanuddin told news agency CNS that a special squad of the outfit carried out the attacks and warned that such strikes “on security establishments will continue”. Srinagar has been relatively peaceful since an attack on June 22, 2013, in which two policemen were shot dead in the business hub of Hari Singh High Street.
Monday’s incidents come two days after an encounter with militants in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, in which a soldier was killed. Security forces said five militants were killed and two soldiers wounded in a fierce gunbattle in Drugmulla. Thousands of people participated in the funeral of the five militants in a sign of growing restlessness in the Valley.
Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir have witnessed a steep fall in militancy in recent years as compared to the troubled ’90s, leading to spurt in tourism, the mainstay of the state’s economy.
But recent attacks have brought back fears of the Valley plummeting to the dreaded days of violence and chaos. The restlessness was evident in April when the alleged molestation of a schoolgirl in north Kashmir’s Handwara sparked fatal protests across the Valley after several protesters were killed in police firing.