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PM Modi seeks details of Srinagar attack to prevent central Kashmir from becoming terror hub

As many as 16 men of the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police were injured when militants in ambush attacked their bus at Zewan, on the outskirts of Srinagar, on Monday evening

Taking a strong note of the marked increase in guerrilla attacks on the Jammu and Kashmir police and security forces in the current month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought a detailed report on a terror strike in which three personnel were killed in Srinagar on Monday.

As many as 16 men of the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police were injured when militants in ambush attacked their bus at Zewan, on the outskirts of Srinagar, on Monday evening. Three of the critically wounded personnel later succumbed to injuries. The fatal attack in Srinagar came in just three days of an ambush on a Police vehicle at the district headquarters of Bandipora, in northern Kashmir, in which two personnel were killed.

“PM @narendramodi has sought details on the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir. He has also expressed condolences to the families of those security personnel who have been martyred in the attack”, said a tweet from the Prime Minister’s office.

Detailed reports on terror attacks are normally requisitioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

For a pretty long time before 2015, the Central Kashmir district of Srinagar—the Union Territory’s summer capital—Budgam and Ganderbal had remained peaceful. Most of the encounters and other militancy related incidents were reported from the Jamaat-e-Islami dominated districts of Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam besides parts of the Anantnag district, in southern Kashmir.

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In August 2020, the authorities informally declared Srinagar as the valley’s second ‘militancy-free district’ after Baramulla. However, the militants, until that time on the run, reclaimed their base in Srinagar. As many as 20 encounters and almost an equal number of fatal attacks—some on the Police and security forces and some on the soft targets among civilians—are seen as an indication of the militants’ presence and movement in the capital city.

In Monday’s attack, the militants have for the first time after killing 40 CRPF men in a suicide attack on 14 February 2019, communicated that they had regained the capacity of launching some deadly attacks on the Police and security forces. Most of their attacks after February 2019 remained limited to soft targets like civilians and unarmed Police and security forces personnel. Well-placed sources say that the entire security scenario and the counterinsurgency grid was being reviewed and refurbished in view of the few proactive attacks by the militants.

Zewan happens to be one of the highest security zones with headquarters of three battalions of the Armed Police, one DIG’s office, a Police hospital, a Police training centre and residential quarters of many Police officers. Girdled by several camps of CRPF and BSF, it is situated in close vicinity of Army’s Chinar Corps headquarters and other security installations. Notwithstanding all this, the Zewan-Pantachowk strip between Srinagar and Pampore has witnessed a host of major encounters and terror strikes in the last six years.

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On 31 August 2017, militants in ambush at Pantachowk-Zewan attacked a vehicle of the J&K Police carrying deployment personnel back to their station. One Policeman got killed and 7 others injured.

On one occasion, two militants were killed when they were signaled to stop their car at a checkpoint near Zewan on the highway but they opened fire on the Police party. On another occasion, on 29 August 2020, three militants opened fire and escaped when they were signaled to halt at the same checkpoint. They were chased by the Police and later killed in a nightlong encounter in the neighbourhood. One Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) also got killed.

On 25 June 2017, militants took shelter at Delhi Public School Athwajan, close to Pantachowk, after killing a Sub Inspector of CRPF on the highway. Subsequently in an encounter inside the school, two militants were killed. Two soldiers, including a Captain, sustained injuries.

The year 2016 witnessed the most dreadful attacks at Pampore, close to Zewan. On 20-21 February, five soldiers, including two Majors, one civilian and three militants died in a fierce gunfight at Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) Sempora, Pampore. On 25 June, 8 CRPF personnel were killed and 20 injured in an audacious attack on their bus on the highway at Pampore. Two militants were killed in retaliation. On 10-12 October, two militants were killed in their second attack on the EDI complex on the highway. Three soldiers were killed in another attack on the security forces at Pampore on 17 December 2016.

In 2020 and 2021, several terror strikes and encounters occurred on the periphery of Srinagar from Lawaypora to Pampore.

While two CRPF men were killed in a terror strike at Nowgam on 5 October 2020, two Army soldiers were killed in an audacious attack at HMT Crossing on 26 November, 2020. Three alleged militants were killed in a disputed encounter at Lawaypora on 18 January 2021. On 25 March 2021, three CRPF personnel were killed in another audacious terror strike at the same place.

Away from Srinagar, three CRPF men were killed in a terror attack in Sopore on 18 April 2020.

In the current year, apart from a dozen encounters, in which 16 militants have been killed, October witnessed the worst of the terrorist violence. Those killed by the militants in Srinagar included seven civilians.

On the other hand, in their continued operations, security forces killed 216 militants (19, including Hizbul Mujahideen chief Saifullah, in Srinagar) in 2020. Around 175 militants killed in 2021 include 17 in Srinagar alone where the security forces eliminated some top terror commanders including TRF chief Abbas Sheikh and his close associates Saquib Manzoor and Meeran Shalla.

According to IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar, the militants’ key objective in Monday’s attack at Zewan was to loot weapons from the Police personnel returning from deployment. There were 25 Policemen on board the bus. Some of them retaliated and foiled their attempts to snatch away guns. The IGP said that the three militants, who included two Pakistanis, failed to loot the weapons. He said that the assassins would be brought to justice “very soon”.

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