February 2001 News

Lashkar behind Srinagar Sikhs massacre

7 February 2001
The Hindustan Times
Shishir Gupta

New Delhi: THE PAN-ISLAMIC Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) has been identified as the group behind last Saturday's killings of Sikhs in Srinagar. Highly-placed Government sources said the Sikhs were being targeted by the LeT to derail the peace process. The objective is to vitiate the atmosphere so much that NDA partners, notably the Akali Dal, challenge the ceasefire. It was on February 3 that two LeT activists opened fire on a group of Sikhs in Mahjoor Nagar, gunning down six of them and grievously injuring eight. On January 19, the Government was informed at the highest level about the possibility of the Sikh community being targeted by the militants. The information was based on radio intercepts from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK). According to the sources, communication between the PoK-based LeT camps, code-named 'salahuddin" and "Khyber", was picked up by the Indian listening posts. The massacre was ordered by a LeT commander identified as Mawi. The order was to be executed within days but was delayed as the outfit had problems finding "volunteers". The assessment here is that the LeT paid a tidy sum to hitmen hired for the operation. While the security forces were on high alert and were keeping a vigil on the Sikh-inhabited villages near the Line of Control, the outfit struck at Srinagar. The security establishment kept its calm and did not resort to any retaliatory action like the one prompted by the Chhittisinghpora killings. The killings did anger the community, which took to the streets. The Army had to be called out in Jammu after one person was killed and two were injured in police firing on an agitated mob. To guard against any "over-reaction" from the security forces, the Army has since stepped up vigil. In fact, Chief of Army Staff Gen. S. Padmanabhan and senior officials flew to Srinagar yesterday to size up the situation. They also meet Lt General R.K. Nanawati, the newly appointed Northern Army Commander, to review developments. The Army Chief's visit will help him in getting first-hand account of the massacre. His advice to the field commanders? Regardless of the provocation, there is no need to press the panic button.


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