Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a bloody and black Friday with terrorists stepping up attacks across the valley, just four days before polling is scheduled to be held for the third phase in the five-phased Legislative Assembly elections in 16 constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir, where a very high voter turnout was witnessed in the first two phases.
Eight Army personnel, including Lt Colonel Sankalp Kumar, three policemen and eight terrorists were among 21 persons killed in four attacks in Uri, Srinagar, Shopian and Tral despite the presence of large number of Army units, paramilitary forces and state police, who are on high alert.
Eight Army personnel, three policemen and six foreign terrorists were killed in an encounter which ensued after a heavily armed “fidayeen” squad stormed into an Army fortification at Mohura in Uri in north Kashmir district of Baramulla, which is going to polls on December 9. Eight Army men, Lt Col Sankalp Kumar, Hav Subhash Chand and L/Nk Gurmail Singh of 24 Punjab, while Nk Panna Lal, GNR Manpreet Singh, DMT Kuldeep Kumar, GNR Satnam Singh and L/Nk Sukhwinder Singh of 31 Field Regiment lost their lives in the gun battle.
Official said a group of six terrorists stormed into the Army camp at Mohura in the border town of Uri after killing three police personnel, including an officer, by hurling hand grenades and resorting to indiscriminate firing in the wee hours on Friday.
They said the security forces were taken off guard as the area has never witnessed any violence since the eruption of militancy in the ’90s.
Security forces also returned the fire ensuing in an encounter, which lasted for about 12 hours. All the six terrorists were killed while three soldiers of 24 Punjab and 5 of 31 Field Regiment were also killed in the encounter. Traffic on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), was stopped at Transit Camp because of firing.
Uri, which is around 100 km from Srinagar, despite being a border town and near the Line of Control (LoC), has never witnessed any terror attacks. But the area has witnessed various ceasefire violations from across the border.
In 2008 elections, Uri constituency recorded the highest 81.73 per cent voter turnout and going by the participation in election rallies, the polling percentage would have been high this time too. Congress Minister Taj Mohiuddin is seeking re-election for the third time from the constituency.
Meanwhile, two terrorists were killed in an encounter with security forces in Soura, which is just 5 km from Lal Chowk in Srinagar, where election will be held in the fourth phase on December 14.
In another incident, two civilians were killed and six others were injured in a grenade attack near a bus stand in Tral in Pulwama, which is going to polls on December 9.
A grenade was also thrown inside a police station in south Kashmir district of Shopian, which is also going to polls in the third phase. No injuries have been reported so far in the incident.
The attacks come just two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kashmir valley to address rallies at Srinagar and Anantnag. Modi has campaigned for his party candidates in Jammu region. However, this is the first time that he will address rallies in the valley.
Condemning the attacks in the valley, Modi said that they are desperate attempts to derail the atmosphere of hope and goodwill as seen by increased voter turnout. “Attacks in J&K are condemnable. They are desperate attempts to derail the atmosphere of hope & goodwill as seen by increased voter turnout,” Modi wrote on twitter.
“125 crore Indians bow to our brave Army men who sacrificed their lives. These men lived & died for the nation. We won’t forget them,” he added.
Meanwhile, reacting to the attacks Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said it once again shows the extent to which terrorists will go to disrupt peace and normalcy in the state. “JK Police & army are responding to the attack in Uri. Once again shows the desperate levels militants will go to disrupt peace & normalcy,” Omar wrote on twitter.
“It’s been a terrible day – 4 attacks & a number of deaths – security forces & innocent civilians killed in the valley today,” he said.
Strongly condemning the attack in Uri, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said violence is a zero sum game which does not solve any problem but gives rise to more complexities. “Dialogue and reconciliation are the only options for making the headway in finding a solution,” Mehbooba added.