Eight jawans were killed as militants attacked an army convoy in Srinagar on Monday, a day ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the valley. Many soldiers have been injured in the attack.
According to reports, militants laid an ambush and attacked an army convoy despite the high security alert in the valley following Singh's visit on June 25. The Prime Minister is likely to be accompanied by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
The attack took place on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway in Srinagar's busy Hyderpora bypass area, 5 km from Lal Chowk. The area is adjacent to the international airport.
According to reports, two militants riding a motorcycle fired on an army convoy returning from Leh.
The police in the evening confirmed the death of five soldiers. "Militants opened fire and hurled grenades on an army convoy of 33 RR in Srinagar. Five jawans have been killed and many others injured. The injured jawans have been shifted to hospital and many of them are seriously injured," said inspector general of police AG Mir. However, later in the evening, the police control room put the casualties at eight.
"Police have cordoned off the area and search operations are on," said Mir, who refused to call it a security lapse. "We are on the job, fighting and losing precious lives in the process," he added.
Sources said militants fled the area on the motorcycle, which was later abandoned nearby.
"The terrorists, when challenged, fled the spot on the motorcycle towards Barzalla. They were intercepted at Barzalla and a brief exchange of fire took place in which a CRPF jawan and a policeman were injured. Terrorists again managed to flee from the spot leaving behind the motorcycle," said a police spokesman.
Meanwhile Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attack. Baliguddin, identifying himself as a spokesperson of the outfit, called up a local news agency saying Hizbul Mujahideen had formed several squads and similar attacks would be carried out in the city in future as well.
The attack has taken place a few days after two policemen were killed in Srinagar's city centre Ameera Kadal on Saturday. Saturday's shootout had sounded an alarm in the security circles. Srinagar has since been on red alert. Police and other security agencies have been constantly monitoring the situation. A high-level meeting was convened to review the situation on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, separatists have called for a shutdown on the Prime Minister's visit. Separatists claimed that their senior members had been either arrested or detained in wake of the visit.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah condemned the killings, describing it as an act of barbarism and cowardice. In a message to the army and to the bereaved families, the chief minister expressed solidarity with them.
Attacks during or before high-profile visits to Kashmir
January 1998: 23 Kashmiri Pandits massacred at Wandhama on the outskirts of Srinagar on the eve of Prime Minister I K Gujral's visit
May 2002: Senior Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone shot dead in broad daylight at a public rally when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was on a visit to the state
August 2003: Suicide attack at Greenway Hotel in which ex-legislator Javed Shah was killed when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was chairing an inter-state council meeting at Sher-i-Kashmir convention centre
April 2005: Suicide attack in Srinagar when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was to flag off Karwan-e-Aman bus service. Tourist reception centre was gutted
October 2009: Two persons killed in police action following a law-and-order problem when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in Srinagar to flag off the Qazigund-Baramulla railway line
Major attacks this year
Mar 2: Two cops killed in Handwara in north Kashmir
Mar 13: Five CRPF men killed in Srinagar
Mar 22: A BSF man killed in attack on BSF convoy at Chanapora in Srinagar
Apr 26: Four cops killed in attack on patrol party at Sopore in north Kashmir
May 10: A policemen shot dead in north Kashmir
May 24: Four soldiers killed at Tral in south Kashmir
June 22: Two policemen killed in Srinagar
June 24: Eight soldiers killed in Srinagar