Army fires at public in Baramullah after attack
8 December 2001
The Asian Age
Srinagar: About six civilians were killed and more than 30 wounded when the security forces opened fire at several places in Baramulla in what appears to be panic reaction to a sneak militant attack at an Army convoy on Saturday morning. One soldier was killed and seven others were wounded in the militant strike in town’s Azad Gunj area at 11 am. However, both the assailants, said to be members of the Lashkar-e- Tayyaba and identified as Abu Qasim and Abu Jaffer, were quickly gunned down by the Border Security Force personnel, the police and witnesses said. The Army convoy was on its way to Srinagar from border town of Kupwara via Baramulla when it was targeted by militants, officials said. The killings of civilians sparked off widespread protests and the authorities immediately announced a magisterial inquiry into the bloody incidents. Some of the civilians killed in the shooting have been identified as Sarabjeet Singh, Bashir Ahmed Lone, Gulam Hassan Khan, Abdur Rehman Chalkoo and Nazir Ahmed. A policeman on duty Gulam Nabi was also killed after he was hit by a bullet and then overran by a speeding vehicle at Khawaja Bagh, some 4 km from Azad Gunj, where militants had actually struck. The border town of Baramulla, 55 km from here, was quite tense in the afternoon when senior police and administration officials reached there to investigate the incidents. They faced angry crowds who had taken to the streets at a number of places to demand stern action against the security forces, whom they accused of opening indiscriminate fire soon after the militant attack. “Some of the soldiers just went berserk targeting civilians and whosoever came their way and even ransacked shops abandoned by the owners to escape their wrath,” said Gulam Jeelani, a witness. Officials admitted that the security forces deployed even at Khawaja Bagh, a residential area, about 4 km from Azad Gunj, also opened fire injuring several bystanders. “At Azad Gunj, the soldiers who were part of the Army convoy opened fire in reprisal to the terrorist attack but elsewhere it seems the security forces either overreacted or triggered their weapons off in panic resulting in maximum casualties among the civilians,” admitted a district official. Most of the wounded were the passengers of two minibuses and a private car caught in the firing, witnesses said. The anger in Baramulla over the bloodshed was so high that the Farooq Abdullah government quickly announced a magisterial inquiry into Saturday’s incidents. It also promised to pay Rs 1 lakh each to next kin of those killed and Rs 5,000 to each injured. However, those permanently disabled as a result of the firing would get Rs 75,000 each, an official spokesman said. Earlier, the Baramulla Buopar Mandal, the association of the town’s traders, had announced a strike until the government ordered probe into the “indiscriminate” firing and “looting” by the security forces. The residents alleged that the Army went firing all the way up to Delina village on the outskirts of Baramulla. It was at Delina where five passengers of a passing minibus were injured in the firing, confirmed the police. Eight of the seriously-injured civilians were rushed to Srinagar for specialised treatment, sources said. The rest, about two dozen people, are undergoing treatment in Baramulla. Meanwhile, militants barged into the house of one Muhammad Ayub Khan at Kilohtran Gandoh in the Doda district and shot dead his wife Shafeeqa Begum. Gunmen shot at two persons outside a mosque at Chechilora in Baramulla, the police said adding that one of the victims identified as Abdul Khaliq succumbed in hospital. The police also reported death of yet another civilian Muhammad Yusuf Dar in firing resorted to by armed intruders at a private house at Awoora in southern Anantnag. Militants had gone there to demand money at gunpoint but when the house owner refused to oblige them they opened indiscriminate fire killing the civilian and wounding another.