KL NEWS NETWORK
The weekend attack on the highway at Pampore that killed eight CRPF personnel and left 21 others injured has heightened challenges for the security grid.
Shocking part of the ambush is that the spot has remained under tight vigil of the police and army for a long time and adequate deployments were there for the last one month.
“It was a terrible moment,” NC lawmaker Altaf Kaloo said. After the legislative business of the day concluded and he was on his way home, he barely escaped getting caught in the crossfire. “I saw a police officer passing through and for a moment, I could feel that it was he who is under attack.”
He said it was an escape that he will never forget his entire life. “I saw everything happening and I was fortunate simply because I was a few feet away from the theatre.”
An adequately briefed police officer said that the CRPF convoy belonged to 161 battalion and was on way to its Srinagar base from Pampore where it spent its routine time in the firing range.
“As it was crossing Frestbal, two youth appeared on the road and they were in black track suits and looked like the security men in civvies,” the officer said. “Suddenly they took position and attacked the bus from the front and then it was chaos.”
The spot of the attack is barely a few feet away from the residence of Papa Kishtwari, the dreaded Ikhwan killer who is still in jail.
The Quick Reaction Team of the CRPF was following the targeted bus. “They opened fire on the militants but the bus was not offering them a clear sight of the target,” the officer said. “They were hit only after they left the front side of the bus and while attempting entry into it.”
A matador driver, scared in the encounter said initially one militant tried to get into the bus but was hit by a bullet in his shoulder. Then another was also hit. The duo actually tried to get in then jointly but was killed in this attempt as the fire came from within the bus.
A battery of news photographers who were perhaps the first to reach the spot said they saw the grieving CRPF personnel devastated in the attack. “They were pained and angry and were scared to reach some safe place so we accompanied them till they reached a camp on the Karewa,” one photo journalist said.
“Had not we encouraged them to move out of the scene, it could have created more problems as some people had resorted to stone pelting,” he added.
As the photo journalists returned to the spot, the police had evacuated the critically injured security men and the slain militants. They heard an army officer reporting to his seniors that five CRPF personnel were dead and lot many injured.
A senior police officer Kashmir Life talked to said five CRPF men are dead and three are very critical. He had no idea of CRPF Officially announcing death of eight of its men.
He said many of the injured will survive with lifelong disabilities. He said 27 security men were hit by the bullets in the attack.
Reports said Lashkar has claimed the responsibility of the attack. Police said they believe the slain militants were foreigners. But they are still working to get an idea about their identity.
Top police officers said the weekend attack was a grim reminder of the situation that Kashmir is passing through. They said the situation merits more deployments especially on the highway.
State police chief had already ordered for stepping up of vigil and more deployments in the highway in a high level security meeting that he presided on Monday. He had asked for optimum use of cameras and 24 x 7 deployments to prevent militant access to the highway.