Srinagar: Three Border Security Force (BSF) jawans were killed and five others wounded in a sneak rifle fire attack by Kashmiri militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s highway town of Bijbehara, about 48 km south of Srinagar, on Friday afternoon, The Deccan Chronicle reports
The slain jawans have been identified as Havaldar Rajnesh, head-constable Girish Kumar Shukla and Constable Mahendra Ram. Police sources and witnesses said that the BSF convoy came under militants’ attack while it was passing through the main town.
“The terrorists emerged from behind a row of shops at Goriwan near a government-run hospital in the heart of the town and opened indiscriminate fire towards the BSF convoy at about 4. 20 pm,” a police officer said. He added that two BSF jawans were killed on the spot and a third among the seven injured personnel succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. The condition of one of these injured jawans is also stated to be “very critical”.
Reports from Bijbehara said that three militants were involved in the attack but only two of them were actually seen by the BSF and road opening parties of the security forces deployed in the area. They emptied 25 to 30 bullets of their AK 47 rifles each at one of the BSF vehicles in the convoy, police sources said.
Reports said that the BSF convoy was on its way to Srinagar from Jammu when the militants targeted the last of the 11 vehicles in the fleet. However, a police officer said that it was 7th or 8th vehicles in convoy when came under militant attack. Most of the jawans and officers on board these vehicles were returning to the Valley to resume their duties after spending vacations at their respective homes places, sources in the paramilitary force said.
Two critically injured jawans were airlifted to Srinagar’s 92 Base Hospital of the Army where one of them has succumbed, sources said. Witnesses said that the firing continued for about 12 minutes, leading to chaos in and around Bijbehara town with people running to safety and shopkeepers bringing their shutters down in panic. Also, public and private transport vehicles were quickly withdrawn from the roads and the stretch of Srinagar-Jammu highway has been closed for vehicular traffic.
Reinforcements from J&K police, BSF, CRPF and columns of the Army have arrived at the scene and laid siege to a vast area to start searches. “A massive manhunt has been launched for the terrorists involved in the ambush,” the police said. When the attack took places two more convoys of the CRPF and Army were on the move along the highway between Srinagar and Khanabal in Anantnag district, officials said.
Kashmiri militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen has owned responsibility for carrying out the attack. Its ‘Operational’ spokesperson Burhanuddin told Srinagar- based news agency CNS that “several” Indian troopers were killed in the attack carried out by a special squad of the outfit. “Besides killing these troopers, many more were critically injured by mujahedin,” he claimed. He also said that the ‘Operation Field Commander’ of the Hizb has “directed the squad to intensify the attacks against the Indian troops in Kashmir Valley” and hence Bijbehara like incidents “will continue to occur till the Indian troops are present on the Kashmiri soil.”
The last major militant attack on the BSF along the Srinagar-Jammu highway took place on August 5, 2015 when two jawans of the paramilitary force were killed in an ambush outside the garrison town of Udhampur. Following the attack, Muhammad Naved Yakub, a Pakistan militant of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, was captured alive by a group of villagers. His accomplice Muhammad Noam was, however, killed in the security forces’ retaliatory fire.
In yet another major such attack along the vital highway connecting Kashmir Valley with rest of the country took place at Pampore on the outskirts of Srinagar in February this year. In this attack and during subsequent 48-hour-long armed standoff between a group of militants holed up in J&K Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JK EDI) campus and security forces three CRPF jawans, two Army officers and an employee of the JKEDI were killed. All the three militants holed up in the multi-storey building were also killed in security forces’ counter attack.
Soon after Friday’s attack, Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to DG BSF, KK Sharma, and asked him to rush to Kashmir for an on-the-spot reiview of the situation. Senior Home Minister officials also reviewed the security situation in the Valley as attack on BSF personnel comes close on the heels of two J&K police personnel being shot dead a few days ago.
Home Ministry sources said there was a deliberate attempt by the militant outfits to target security personnel in the Valley now to demoralise them and send out a message that militants could virtually strike at will.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, has strongly condemned the militant attack on the BSF convoy in Bijbehara area. Immediately after the attack, the Chief Minister spoke to DG BSF Mr. Sharma and expressed anguish and sorrow over the death of BSF personnel in the attack. “Such senseless attack is a desperate attempt by the elements inimical to peace to derail the peace efforts of the Government and subvert the rejuvenating economic activity in the State,” the Chief Minister said in a statement.
She added the elements inimical to interests of Jammu and Kashmir have always tried to derail the peace efforts and the latest militant strike in Bijbehara was again aimed at subverting the peace and development initiatives launched by the government. “These elements have always been inimical to the interests of Jammu and Kashmir and have tried to derail any peace effort initiated in the larger interest of the people of the State and the region,” she said and added that “such dastardly attacks and senseless killings” have only brought miseries to the people and tragedies for the victim families, both security forces personnel and the civilians.
She further said, “The only purpose of such gory acts seems to be to keep the turmoil in the state on and the latest attack is again aimed at vitiating the atmosphere.” She while expressing solidarity with the bereaved families of the security forces personnel prayed for early recovery of the injured including civilians. “I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones in today’s attack,” she said.