After girls, terrorists target infants; 3 killed
22 December 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Poonch: After targeting the fair sex for the last two days, the Pakistan- sponsored terrorists last night trained their guns on the innocent children killing three infant brothers and critically wounding two others including their father and a Government teacher in Surankote town. Security forces retaliated today killing five Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists but the slain ultras were not linked to the children’s massacre. A big group of terrorists fired rockets and resorted to indiscriminate firing on Surankote town with automatic weapons at about 2130 hours last night. A rocket fell inside the Special Operations Group (SOG) headquarters in the town while another rocket blasted at LG ground, used for landing of the helicopters, official sources said. While attention of the SOG and Surankote police was diverted towards the group firing the rockets, another group of two terrorists forced their entry into the house of a carpenter Munshi Khan near the sub district hospital in Surankote and started indiscriminate firing on the house inmates. The terrorists’ firing left three children dead and two others including Munshi Khan and a woman injured, the sources said. Presuming all the house inmates as dead, the ultras hurriedly left the house. Police and security forces came to know of the killings only after the firing and rocket attacks on the town stopped. They shifted the injured to hospital where three children, all brothers were declared as dead while Munshi Khan and a tenant Gurmeet Kour, a Government teacher, hailing from Bakshi Nagar, Jammu, were admitted. Deceased children have been identified as Arfaz Ahmed, 4, Asid Mohd, 7 and Nazarat Hussain, 12. Their bodies were kept in the hospital and handed over to their relatives this afternoon for burial. Condition of the two injured was stated to be stable in the hospital. However, no casualties were reported in the rocket attacks and firing on the town that lasted about 45 minutes, the sources said, adding that Personal Security Officer (PSO) of a Congress (I) leader Khushdev Verma sustained minor injuries. He has been identified as Havildar Nazir Hussain of the Indian Reserve Police (IRP) and has been hospitalised. Verma’s house was damaged. House of Haji Abdullah, who had contested the last Assembly election as an independent candidate, was also damaged in the attack. A total of seven houses were damaged in the rocket attacks and firing. Infact, according to sources, the Congress (I) leader as well as an independent candidate, were targets of the terrorists’ rocket attacks besides the SOG camp and police station. Soon after the firing was over, army and police fanned out in the town and started a search operation for the terrorists. A breakthrough remained elusive. Sources said atleast 10 terrorists were suspected to be involved in the attack. Injured Munshi Khan was initially a resident of village Gounthal but had shifted to Surankote town sometime back in view of the threats to his life. He was a carpenter by profession. According to sources, Gurmeet Kour wife of Jaspal Singh was also staying as a tenant in the house. People in Surankote town resented the killings of three children by the terrorists. Though there were no anti-terrorist protests in the town in view of the terrorists’ threats, a large number of people could be seen wailing after seeing bullet-riddled dead bodies of the infants. ''Were the four, seven and 12 years old children informers of the security forces''? an elderly person asked a visiting correspondent. He, however, declined to name himself saying if he spoke against the ultras, he would be the next target. He, however, had no hesitation in saying that both security forces and police have miserably failed in protecting lives of the civilians. The children were buried in the town this evening amidst a highly surcharged atmosphere. Senior officers of security forces and police attended burial of the infants and vowed to kill the killers of the children ‘very soon’. ''We will hunt down the killers shortly. They have to be eliminated at all costs. There can be no mercy to the perpetrators of such an inhuman tragedy'', a security forces officer said in the town. As reported, the terrorists had killed three girls at Hasiot, Thanna Mandi on Thursday night and gunned down an old woman at Panhad, Chowdhary Nar in Rajouri district on Friday night. Meanwhile, army and police today raided a hideout of the terrorists at village Milan in Surankote and eliminated five terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) outfit. Hideout of the terrorists was blasted by the troops, the sources said. They added that all slain terrorists were foreign mercenaries. However, their identity hasn’t been established so far. Recoveries made from the scene of encounter included five AK rifles, 11 magazines, 334 rounds, two wireless sets including one in damaged condition, 14 hand grenades, 30 detonators, one compass and some incriminating documents. Army or police didn’t suffer any casualties in the operation, the sources said, describing the operation as ‘fully successful’ as all five terrorists were eliminated. ''The operation was planned meticulously and none of the terrorists could manage to escape'', they added. Sources clarified that the slain terrorists were not linked to last night’s attack in the town. Bodies of the terrorists have been recovered and the efforts were on to identify them. A letter head of LeT recovered from the spot indicated the slain terrorists’ affiliation with the outfit. In another incident, the terrorists shot at and seriously injured a civilian Abdul Rashid son of Kaja Karim in his house at village Hari in Surankote last night. The ultras escaped after the firing. Injured Abdul Rashid was shifted to the sub district hospital in Surankote from where he was referred to the district hospital in Poonch.