SRINAGAR: The attack that pierced the silence of Sopore town on Saturday led to the killing of four persons, two cops and two civilians. While both the civilians were residents of Sopore, the two cops belonged to the neighbouring Budgam district.
Details from the north Kashmir’s apple town said that at around noon, there was a sudden burst of fire triggering panic in the main Chowk belt. It is the same spot near the Samad Talkies cinema that once existed. Everybody started fleeing to a safer place as the abrupt firing and a blast sound was heard. It was a fierce shootout as cops attempted to repulse the attack.
It was only after the firing stopped that people saw a gypsy vehicle being the target of the attack by militants, who by then, had managed to escape from the scene. Militants, The Indian Express reported had used an under-barrel grenade launcher and bullet-proof-piercing ammunition.
The immediate attention was devoured by managing the injured. There were eight persons who had received the bullets, four each of cops and civilians. Initially, the injured were shifted to the local hospital wherefrom they were immediately referred to Srinagar’s SMHS hospital. Cops, however, were shifted to 92-Base Hospital in Srinagar.
The gypsy was part of the process of thinning civilian crowds and implementing the Covid19 lockdown. Residents said the cops were telling people to go home and had in fact asked a few to accompany them to the police station.
It was then that militants, whose number is not known, attacked the gypsy. Four cops were hit by the bullets. They first hit the tyres and the petrol tank thus making the vehicle immovable. Then they open fire on the gypsy. The entire firing remained for less than five minutes. However, after the firing, the operation started that continued for three hours.
As the injured were shifted to hospitals, two cops were declared dead. They were identified by the police spokesman as constables Showkat Ahmad Bhat and Waseem Ahmad Parray. Bhat, a member of IRP 3rd battalion lived in Narbal so did Parray – also from the same battalion. The latter basically hailed from Goripora (Beerwah).
Two civilians who were killed in the incident were identified as Manzoor Ahmad Shalla, resident of Shalimar Colony Sopore and Bashir Ahmad resident of Mahrajpora Sopore. Shalla was a shopkeeper who was the only breadwinner of the family so was Ahmad, who would sell fruit on a cart to help the family survive.
Four persons who were injured in the attack are being treated at different hospitals. These include civilian Tariq Ahmad, an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police, Mukesh Kumar, constable Nayeem Ahmad and an SPO,
Danish Ahmad Shah, a resident of Mundji in Sopore. There are no clear details about their state of health.
Police and paramilitary forces cordoned off the area after the attack and searched various premises. So far, there is no detail of any arrest or recovery. Police spokesman held Lashkar-e-Toiba responsible for the attack. They have registered a case and started investigations. However, no militant outfit has staked the claim to the attack, so far.
It was chaotic when the bodies of the four slain persons reached their homes. The families were inconsolable in Sopore as well as in Narbal. Eyewitnesses said heart-wrenching scenes were witnessed in the native areas of slain civilians. The slain cops were first driven to the District Police Lines in Srinagar where the police top brass laid floral wreaths on their coffins. Tragically the slain cops were also the lone breadwinners of their families.
All the four slain persons were lowered in their graves before the sunset and the funerals were huge.
Hours after the attack, IGP Kashmir issued an order shifting Inspector Azim Iqbal, the SHOP Sopore to Shopian. He was replaced by Inspector Khalid Fayaz, who moved from south Kashmir.
Saturday’s shootout was the first major attack in Sopore after March 30, when militants had stormed the Sopore Municipal Council office, killing two councillors and a policeman.
Kashmir Police chief, Vijay Kumar visited Sopore after the attack and presided over a review meeting with the army’s sector commander, and the CRPF has said two local militants Fayaz War and Mudasir Pandit were behind the attack. Pandit was also accused of March 30 attack as well.