9 of Elite Kashmir Unit killed in Lashkar suicide hit
17 September 2001
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Nine members of the Jammu and Kashmir police’s elite counter- insurgency Special Operations Group were killed and 10 others wounded in a major militant strike in the frontier district of Kupwara on Monday. The police here said two fidayeen (suicide squad militants) attacked the SOG camp, set up in the house of a Kashmiri pandit expatriate at Khannabal in the heart of Handwara, shortly after midnight. They threw several hand grenades inside the temporary barracks, leaving the policemen in a pool of blood. The paramilitary BSF has a base less than 150 yards from the SOG barracks. Police sources said that when reinforcements reached the scene they found nine policemen already dead and 13 injured crying for help. Those killed in the deadly strike were sub-inspectors Muhammad Rafiq, Mohan Lal Sharma and Dileep Kumar, constables Muhammad Iqbal, Shabir Ahmad, Farooq Ahmad, Sarfaraz and Balwant Raj, and selection grade constable Shabir Ahmad. The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba claimed responsibility for the attack. A Lashkar spokesperson said one of the two fidayeen, Abu Usman, was also killed in action. However, the other militant, Abu Sakar, returned to his hideout safely, the Lashkar spokesperson added. Sources said the fida yeen first targeted the sentry box with a grenade, killing the sentry and two colleagues instantly. As they fell, the assailants entered the premises, throwing grenades everywhere. The sources said that after a while Army and paramilitary forces rushed to the spot, encircled the camp and engaged the militants in a gun battle, killing Usman. The injured personnel were rushed to hospital in nearby Sopore town. The six critically injured policemen were later brought to Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences for specialised treatment early on Monday. A report said the reinforcements found five unexploded grenades inside the barracks. Jammu and Kashmir director-general of police Ashok Kumar Suri and senior district police officials visited Handwara early on Monday. Mr Suri admitted that the killing and wounding of so many members of the elite SOG in a single militant strike was an extraordinary incident but asserted that the security forces were “still on top of the situation and determined to root militancy out of our lives.” A police handout issued here said the SOG and BSF in a joint operation killed five militants, three Pakistani nationals and two local recruits, in southern Tral on Sunday. A Hizb-ul Mujahideen militant, Abdur Rashid Reshi, was killed in joint action by the Army and BSF in Baramulla district’s Hardabar village, it said.