January 2001 News

Lashkar 6-man squad killed targeting Srinagar airport

16 January 2001
The Indian Express
MUZAMIL JALEEL

Srinagar: Within a month after striking at Red Fort in the capital, the Lashkar-e-Toiba chose the heavily fortified Srinagar airport today to send its message that it was opposed to any peace initiative in the Valley. Six of its members, all between 20 and 25 years of age and in BSF uniform, were killed while trying to sneak in. Four CRPF personnel, guarding the entrance, were killed and in the three-hour-long cross-fire, a bank manager and a teenage girl lost their lives as well. Eight others, including two woman airport personnel, were injured. At around 2.45 pm, a green Mahindra jeep arrived at the entrance whichis just under a km from the main lounge. 'Though the flight wasdelayed, there were no civilian vehicles at the gate becuase almost all passengers had already gone inside,' said a traffic policemen who was an eyewitness to the incident. 'I was 50 m from the gate and I saw a few armed men in uniform walking towards the gate but did not pay any attention becuase I presumed they were from CRPF. Then I heard gunshots all around. I jumped and took position behind a parked car. I can't believe I am alive.' Panic broke out, he said. 'Whoever had a weapon, was firing.' Interestingly, the Lashkar-e-Toiba spokesmen Abu Usama and Abu Umair calleda local newsagency here at around 2.25 pm claiming responsibility for the attack. They identified the militants as Abu Zantalla, Abu Ushama, Abu Habib, Abu Abdullah and Abu Abdullah Sayaf besides Abu Ubaid Tariq. S P Badola, the Commandant (in charge) of the CRPF's 48 Battalion, which guards the airport, said that five militants were killed at the entrance itself. 'They were in a Forest Department jeep which they had apparently stolen. Five of them walked towards the gate and when our men challenged them, they opened fire,' Badola said. 'All five were killed on the road iself while the sixth ran into oneof the stores in the shopping complex on the left side of the road. He toowas killed after a shoot out. In the encounter, fire broke out in theshopping complex. Later, we recovered the militant's body from the debris.' He said three CRPF jawans were killed while eight others were injured, twoamong them seriously. 'Three lady constables, deputed to frisk women passengers, also received bullet wounds. One of them is serious,' Badola said. A 40-year-old manager of the Ilaqayi Dehati bank, Muneer Ahmad Muneer, waskilled in his car. 'He was returning after seeing his son off whohad to leave for Delhi. Bullets have hit his face,' said Zahoor Ahmad, theelder brother of the deceased. A deputy superintendent of police, who had rushed to the spot soon after the firing started, said Muneer was lying dead in his driving seat. 'He had apparently stopped his car to jump for safety but was hit,' the officer said. The police, however, are still trying to find out who the teenagevictim is. 'We suspect her credentials and are investigating,' a police officer said. Soon after the operation at around 5 pm, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, accompanied by Director General of Police A K Suri, arrivedfrom Jammu. Addressing reporters at the Humhama police-post, where the bodies of the militants and the two civilians lay, he said: 'How long will the forces be patient when they are being attacked in such a way?' When asked as to what would be the impact of such an attack on the ongoing peace process, Abdullah said: 'The Government of India has to decide. That is not my decision.' He blamed Pakistan for these attacks saying, 'If they didn't have consent from the Pakistani Government, why should they have come here?'

 

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