SRINAGAR: In one of the worst attacks on security forces, a powerful explosion ripped through a busy marketplace in north Kashmir’s Sopore town today morning, killing four cops of J&K Police while three civilians suffered minor injuries.

Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range) Munir Khan said four policemen were killed when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) went off in a market in Gole Market area of Sopore town.

Khan said three among the slain were identified as assistant sub-inspector Irshad Ahmad from Doda, Muhammad Amin from Kupwara and Ghulam Nabi from Sopore. The identity of the fourth has not been ascertained so far.

Sources said the IED was planted beneath a shop in the marketplace, reportedly during last night by suspected militants, “We are examining the area. It looks like the policemen were led into a trap before the explosion was triggered,” sources said.

Witnesses said the area has been cordoned off and a large posse of police and paramilitary forces are conducting searches to get to the perpetrators. Security has been stepped up in Sopore and it’s adjoining areas as a precautionary measure.

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti condemned the attack on policemen, “Pained to hear that four policeman have been killed in an IED explosion in Sopore. My deepest condolences to their families,” Mehbooba wrote on Twitter.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah also expressed anguish over the killing of four police personnel in the IED blast in Sopore town, "Very sad news from #Sopore. May the four brave J&K police personnel killed in the line of duty today rest in piece", Omar wrote on Twitter.

The attack comes barely days after a 24-year-old pharmaceutical salesman and son of a senior Hurriyat activist was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Bomai area of Sopore. After the BJP claimed that the youngster was working with the party, his family has asked the militants to come clean on the issue.

Earlier, five CRPF personnel were killed on the New Year's eve during a fidayeen attack on a paramilitary training facility in South Kashmir’s Lethpora area. Three militants, two of them locals working with Jaish-e-Mohammad, were also killed in the exchange of gunfire.

(Photograph: BASIT ZARGAR)