PDP Minister Narrowly Escapes Militant Attack, 3 Dead, 30 Injured
SRINAGAR: Suspected militants attacked the entourage of senior PDP leader and Public Works Minister, Naeem Akhtar, in the volatile south Kashmir's Tral township today, resulting in the killing of three civilians while 30 others were injured.
The Minister, who was visiting the area to inspect the developmental works, however escaped unscathed in the attack during which a grenade was lobbed at his cavalcade near the Bus Stand in Tral. However, an engineer working in the state government and his driver are reported to have suffered injuries.
"The cavalcade was moving near Bus Stand area when the blast occurred. Naeem saheb is fine. He has been moved to a safe location. The injured were taken to a hospital in Tral where a woman and an elderly man succumbed while 30 others are injured," police sources said.
Akhtar, whose reforms in his tenure as the Education Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, were widely hailed, was threatened by the Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit last year for allegedly forcing teachers to resume duties at the peak of civilian uprising last year.
"The present struggle is not against education system but against Indian occupation. If Naeem Akhtar doesn’t budge, we will initiate action against him”, a Lashkar-e-Toiba commander had said in the statement.
Speaking with The Citizen, Akhtar said: "I am pained beyond words to see these senseless acts of violence. Such dastardly attacks will not hamper the resolve of our government to make Kashmir a peaceful and prosperous state," he said.
Reports said the grenade blast occurred near the Bus Stand in Tral town where a party of government forces, including police and paramilitary troopers, were deployed on duty for the minister's visit.
Police said the area has been cordoned off and additional reinforcements have been rushed to the area. "We have started a search operation as part of Standard Operating Procedure. The culprits will not be spared," a senior police officer said.
The officer said at least seven CRPF personnel were also injured in the attack but their condition is believed to be stable. The deceased have been identified as Pinky Kour and Ghulam Mohammad Trag, both residents of Tral. The third is being identified.
Soon after the blast, locals alleged that the security forces assaulted locals in the area and also opened fire, "Six civilians with pellet injuries were brought to Srinagar for treatment," sources said. The protesters also staged a demo outside the hospital in Tral where the injured were taken for treatment.
The incident comes a day after a soldier of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) was killed while another was injured when a SSB patrol was attacked by militants in Banihal area last night.
The J&K Police has identified three local youth as perpetrators of yesterday's attack on an SSB party near Jawahar Tunnel that connects Kashmir Valley with Jammu region.
Sources said while two youth belong to Kaskoot, the third one hails from Ashar village of Ramban district, "We recovered a mobile phone belonging to one of the youths from a bag lying half a kilometre away from the site of the attack. A case has been filed an investigations are underway," sources said.
According to an SSB spokesperson, suspected militants fired upon SSB troopers near Jawahar tunnel at around 7:15 pm, “The SSB party was returning from tunnel security duty. In this incident one HC killed and one ASI got injured and shifted to Srinagar hospital.” The militants also managed to snatch two rifles from the victims.