One civilian was killed and a cop injured when militants attacked a security patrol in north Kashmir's busy Sopore town on Sunday afternoon --- it was fourth militant attack in March.
Inspector general of police, Kashmir range, Abdul Ghani Mir told Hindustan Times that militants appeared at busy Iqbal Market in Sopore town, 55 km away from Srinagar, and fired at guarding security personnel. "The militants apparently fired from a pistol. A total of three bullets were shot. One hit a constable and one hit an elderly civilian," said IG Mir.
Indian Reserve Police personnel, identified as constable Kishor Kumar, was hit in the neck and was shifted to a hospital. Injured civilian Abdul Rashid Dar (65), a resident of Rafiabad, succumbed to his bullet injury later in Srinagar's Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences hospital.
The militants took advantage of huge rush in the market and militants managed to escape. The police said it showed restrain and did not retaliate to the militant fire in the busy town. "Militants are trying to provoke security forces to retaliate at busy markets that may result in civilian causality. It is a pattern emerging. But we did not retaliate to avoid any collateral damage," said Mir.
No militant group has claimed the responsibility of the attack. "The investigation is on to identify the people and the group behind the attack," said Mir.
The IGP said it was too early to say if the militancy had been impacted by Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's execution. "If one goes by the figures of January, February and March of 2012, there were 19 militant attacks. This year for the same period, there are 11 militant attacks. I don's see any increase in militancy but I would like to reiterate that Kashmir is not a zero militancy zone," said Mir.
The police reports suggest there are around 100 active militants and several sleeper cells, which may have been activated after Guru's hanging on February 9.
There is a sudden spurt in militant attacks in Kashmir valley since the execution. On March 2, two cops were shot dead in north Kashmir's Handwara area. Eleven days later on March 13, an audacious militant attack killed five CRPF jawans at Srinagar's Bemina area. Two militants were also killed and four others arrested in the Bemina attack. On March 21, one BSF jawan was killed on the outskirts of Srinagar.
"The heightened militant activity could be because both the police and other paramilitary forces are busy with law and order issues (after Guru's hanging). The militants might be taking advantage of it," said IG Mir.
The police say Srinagar was witnessing floating militancy from nearby areas in the past few years. "We have beefed up security in the city to foil militant attempts to sneak in," said Mir.
Barricades, narrow one-vehicle entry at major entry-points and random checks have once again returned to Srinagar city from Saturday, following heightened militant activity.