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Militants kill CRPF man, civilian in Sopore attack: Police

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Some family members contest official version, political parties demand probe

Srinagar: Militants hiding inside a mosque opened fire at a CRPF patrol team in Sopore town on Wednesday, killing a paramilitary personnel and a civilian whose three-year-old grandson narrowly escaped the hail of bullets and was rescued by security forces, officials said.

The incident in north Kashmir’s apple town, about 50 km from here, took place a little after 8 am. Three Central Reserve Police Force (CFPF) troopers were injured in the attack, which led to panic in the area.

The CRPF personnel (from the G company of 179th battalion), on routine patrol duty, returned the fire but the militants managed to flee from the area, the officials said.

It is not clear how many militants were holed up inside the mosque, they said.

As people scurried for cover, 60-year-old Bashir Khan who was travelling with his grandson in his car “abandoned the vehicle and made an unsuccessful attempt to run for safety but was killed,” officials said, narrating the sequence of events.

“When CRPF personnel saw the toddler crying next to his grandfather’s body, some of them made a dash to rescue him as their colleagues opened fire to cover them,” officials claimed.

However, this description of the incident was contested by many, with Khan’s son alleging that his father was “pulled out from the car and killed by security forces”, a charge denied by the CRPF.

Images of the weeping child near his grandfather’s body were circulated widely on social media, intensifying the debate.

“The civilian was killed by terrorists and all the noise on social media is being orchestrated from across the border,” Additional Director General of CRPF Zulfikar Hasan told reporters in Sopore.

“CRPF and other security forces have the utmost regard for places of worship and no one could even think that terrorists would use the mosque as a hideout,” he said, and complimented the paramilitary personnel for their “patience and presence of mind” during the encounter.

Later in the day, police officials went inside the mosque along with prominent citizens of the area and saw the bloodstains in one part of the mosque building, PTI reported.

CRPF head constable Deep Chand Verma, who was injured in the attack along with three of his colleagues, was declared brought dead to the hospital.

“One needs to wonder how a man sitting 50 km away from the site of encounter come to this conclusion that such a thing had happened,” an official said, responding to allegations by Khan’s son who lives in Mustafabad locality in Srinagar’s HMT area.

The son said his father left for Sopore along with his grandson at 6 am for some personal work.

The CRPF also issued a statement detailing the events.

“Militants hiding in the attic of a nearby mosque started firing indiscriminately on the troops resulting in injuries to four CRPF personnel,” it said.

“A civilian vehicle which was coming from Sopore and going towards Kupwara was caught in the firing range of terrorists. An old man who was driving the vehicle stopped the car and got down from vehicle to move away for safe spot but got killed by terrorists’ firing,” it added.

“Later, a young boy was rescued by security forces personnel who had taken positions nearby.”

Jammu and Kashmir Police later shared a picture of the child being carried by a security officer on its official Twitter handle, saying it “rescued a three-year-old boy from getting hit by bullets during terrorist attack in Sopore”.

The injured constables, Bhoya Rajesh, Deepak Patil and Nilesh Chawde, have been admitted to a hospital, the force said.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah said every incident becomes a “propaganda tool in the bloody violence in Kashmir”.

“A three year old toddler has to have his misery broadcast to the whole world to drive home the ‘we good they bad’ message. We would have got the point without his misery being filmed and shared so please don’t,” he said on Twitter.

“We would have expected no less from the men in uniform than to rescue the young boy and for that they have our gratitude but we would expect better than for them to film & use a three year old’s pain the way it’s being done today,” Abdullah added.

National Conference while condemning the killing of a civilian man from HMT Srinagar, sought a time-bound judicial probe into the circumstances which led to the “barbaric incident”.

In a statement, the NC’s provincial spokesperson while condemning the incident asked the government to reveal the facts which led to the killing of an elderly man.

“Targeting civilians, minors is condemnable, such barbaric incidents cannot be tolerated. The heart wrenching site of a dead man with the kid atop his chest has shaken every sane person. Incidents like these agitate one’s souls and conscience,” he said adding, “such incidents can never be acceptable in any civilized society. It is therefore imperative upon the government to establish the verity behind the unfortunate incident. The veracity of the different versions will only come to forth following a time-bound judicial probe into the matter.”

“Our party condemns such incidents; we believe such excesses will further aggravate the situation in the valley. NC extends heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and prays for peace to the soul of the deceased, with a view that those behind the heinous act are brought to justice,” he said.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also condemned the incident and demanded time-bound inquiry into the gruesome episode.

According to the party spokesman, the videos and the pictures of the shootout and its aftermath have gone viral on social media with a 3-year-old kid becoming the unfortunate face of this mayhem.

He said that the family of the civilian killed in the shootout has given a statement which goes contrary to the official statement issued by the security agencies. “This needs to be probed at a high level and time-bound inquiry and impartial probe into the matter is what we demand from the government at present,” said the PDP spokesman.

Expressing grief and sympathy with the families of victims, PDP has reiterated that such violence is condemnable in all its forms.

Apni Party, an outfit formed by disgruntled leaders from various political parties of Kashmir, also demanded a time-bound probe into the Khan’s killing.

In a statement issued here, a spokesman of the party said that the family version of the deceased and the circumstantial evidence, prima facie, suggest that Khan was killed in cold-blood.

“The government should order an impartial investigation into the circumstances that led to the killing of a civilian who was on the way to Sopore in connection with his personal work,” the spokesman added.

He said only a time-bound and transparent probe into the incident can reveal the veracity of claims made by the family of the deceased.

“The security forces should exercise maximum restraint in such situations and ensure that no collateral damage takes place during such incidents,” the JKAP spokesman observed.

2 LeT men fired 30 bullets from mosque, we didn’t retaliate at all: IGP

Srinagar, Jul 01: Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police, Vijay Kumar today said that Lashkar-e-Toiba militants who were hiding in a mosque carried out the attack at a CRPF party at model town Sopore that led to the death of a CRPF man and a civilian while minor boy was rescued.

He said “there was no retaliation from the security forces’ side, and it was later found that militants had left behind one full magazine and another one from which 30 bullets were used in the premises of a local  mosque.”

The IGP, while addressing a press conference at Police Control Room (PCR) here, said that today morning when CRPF men were de-boarding from the vehicle to be part of joint Naka party at model town Sopore, two militants hiding in the mosque, fired indiscriminately at the CRPF men in which one CRPF man died and three others were injured.

“A civilian also was hit by bullets and died later,” Kumar said.

He said the attack was carried out by two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants that include a foreign militant Usman Bhai and a local militant Adil. “They fired 30 bullets as is evident from the magazine recovered from the mosque premises. Another magazine was also recovered which was full,” the IGP said.

He said police rescued a three-year-old boy who was accompanying his grandfather.

“We have observed that wherever the civilian movement is more, militants are carrying out attacks to trigger law and order issues and to trigger disturbances,” he said.

The IGP Kashmir said that he “deliberately didn’t snap the Internet services in Sopore just to see how people would behave”.

“The video message circulated on social media by the son and daughter of the slain man is totally baseless. They have levelled allegations under militant threat,” the IGP said.

“I want to ask them whether they were present at the site of the incident. Did they see themselves who fired? They circulated video messages blaming forces of killing their father from Srinagar, which is totally baseless,” he said.

He said if there is any eye-witness, let them come forward, “we will act accordingly”.

He also claimed that “there was no retaliation at all from the security forces side”.

The search in the area is on to nab the attackers. “We have not called out the search operation,” the IGP added.  (With inputs from KNO)


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