Majid Kapra

2 cops killed as militants attack SMHS hospital to free Pak accomplice

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Srinagar, Feb 06: Two policemen were killed Tuesday when militants mounted a daring attack at a police party inside the SMHS Hospital complex in Srinagar and freed a Pakistani militant.

Immediately after the attack inside the premises of Srinagar's main hospital, the attackers escaped into the narrow lanes and bylanes of downtown Srinagar along with Mohammed Naveed Jhatt, the 22-year-old Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant from Pakistan, who was caught in Kulgam in south Kashmir in 2014, a police official said.

The attack by the LeT to free Mohammed Naveed Jhatt took place around 11.35 am inside the busy SMHS Hospital complex in the summer capital.

It ended with Head Constable Mushtaq Ahmad and Constable Babar Ahmad Khan being killed and the militants escaping into the narrow lanes of downtown Srinagar, a police official said.

Paramilitary men standing guard at the SMHS parking lot immediately after the attack.PHOTO/Javed Khan

"It's a very unfortunate incident and the terrorists managed to free one of their hardcore accomplices. We have sounded a red alert to nab all those involved in this crime," said Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid.

Senior officials said Srinagar had not witnessed such a getaway since 2001 when militant named General Abdullah managed to give slip to his police guards and escaped by jumping from the first floor of SMHS Hospital.

Initially, it was believed that Jhatt managed his escape after snatching the rifle from one of the cops escorting him.

Talking to media, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Srinagar, Imtiyaz Ismail Parray while confirming the incident said two cops were critically injured while as one foreign militant escaped with a service rifle.

“Basically a group of six detainees were brought from Central jail and one among them snatched weapon and fired on protection party leaving one injured and another critically injured. One detenue has fled away while rest five were taken back to safe place,” SSP added.

However, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Central Kashmir, Gulam Hassan Bhat while contradicting assertions of city police chief about the militant snatching rifle of one of the cops said “no weapon was snatched, nor did the militant who escaped fired upon the escorting party -- they were shot by other assailants.”

But later in the day, after piecing together eyewitness accounts and CCTV footage to ascertain what had happened today, police said two militants were lying in wait in the parking lot of the Out Patient Department (OPD) of hospital for the prison vehicle, carrying Jhatt and five others for treatment.

“As soon as the vehicle drove in, a pheran-clad youth handed a pistol to Jhatt, alias Abu Hanzala, who pumped bullets into Mushtaq Ahmad's chest,” a senior police official said.

“Babar Ahmad, who was accompanying the team, attempted to retaliate and was also fired at by Jhatt and the militant who had handed over the pistol,” the  official said.

He said as the firing started, the five other jail inmates, who had been referred by the jail doctor to the hospital, were seen lying flat on the ground to escape the bullets.

Mushtaq Ahmad died almost immediately after the attack that took place in the busy pre-lunch hour when the 70-year hospital, Srinagar's main health-care facility, is crowded with patients.

Babar Ahmad succumbed to his injuries a few hours later.

Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Prisons S K Mishra said he had ordered an inquiry into the escape.

The hospital, named after Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS), the last ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, is strategically located on the banks of a tributary of the Jhelum, with uptown Karan Nagar on one side and Nawab Bazaar in downtown Srinagar on the other.

Police says Jhatt, a school dropout from Borevella district of Multan in the Pakistan Punjab, is believed to be involved in multiple attacks. These include an attack on the Army in Hyderpora in the city, an attack on the Silver Star Hotel along the national highway outside Srinagar and three attacks on police and CRPF camps in south Kashmir.

He was arrested on August 26, 2014.

“The militant had undergone intensive training and was good in handling equipment like compasses, GPS, wireless sets and mobile phones installed with Skype software,” an official said.

Jammu and Kashmir Police wanted to shift him along with five other prisoners from Srinagar jail to other high security jails outside the Valley but was disallowed from doing so by the sessions court on December 26, 2017.

Meanwhile, a wreath laying ceremony for the two slain policemen was held at Police Lines.

Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of Karnah in north Kashmir, is survived by wife and a daughter about 10-years-old.

Babar Ahmad, from Shangus in south Kashmir, is survived by his wife, two daughters (aged three and two), his father, four brothers and an unmarried sister, police said. (With PTI inputs)

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