Srinagar, Sept. 2: A string of gun battles and bombings echoed across Jammu and Kashmir a day after a radio intercept attributed to the Jaish-e-Mohammad exhorted its gunmen to “inflict sorrow and death” on those rejoicing the killing of its commander Gazi Baba.
Two attacks rocked security forces, one targeting a camp of the BSF which gunned down the Jaish Kashmir chief — the alleged mastermind of the December 2001 attack on Parliament.
The second targeted an army vehicle on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, blowing up the driver. The ambush came minutes after resumption of traffic, suspended the night before because a bridge was blown up at Lawdoora village in Anantnag.
This is the first time in the 14 years of Kashmir militancy that an attempt has been made to snap the highway link.
Jaish militants are suspected to be behind the attempt to storm the BSF hub at Nishat on the outskirts of Srinagar. The Hizb-ul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the army vehicle attack on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.
The militants gave vent to their fury on a day army chief .C. Vij began his four-day visit to the forward posts to review the situation.
The violence spiral, coming a week after the twin Mumbai blasts in which 52 people were killed, could slow the hesitant steps to peace between India and Pakistan.
The strike on the BSF came at dawn. Hurling grenades and firing heavily, three militants in fatigues attacked the sentry post of the 57 battalion at Nishat and tried to barge into the campus. But sentries returned fire, killing one militant outside the gate, BSF inspector K.C. Padhi said.
The slain militant has been identified as a Pakistani national, Irfan, of Bahawalpur — from where Gazi Baba also hailed. Padhi said he expected strikes on security installations in the next four days.
A senior official at the BSF’s Delhi headquarters said they had expected the Jaish to retaliate but not so soon. They had calculated that the strikes would begin on Wednesday after the three-day mourning for Gazi Baba was over.
“This (the BSF hub strike) is a natural consequence of our operation against Gazi Baba. We were expecting it but not today. Generally, the mourning period is for three days, after which the attacks start.
“We thought the strikes would begin on Wednesday, but never mind, we got one of their men though two managed to escape,” the official said.
Around noon, the army ran into the ambush. Militants detonated a powerful IED at Chirsoo-Awantipora and opened fire as the army vehicle was speeding down the strategic Srinagar-Jammu highway, blowing up driver Ranjeet Singh.
Six armymen and 10 civilians were wounded in the crossfire that followed.
Later, the attacks stage shifted to Kathua district in Jammu. Police trapped seven heavily armed militants who had infiltrated from across the International Border in a cordon, but four of their men were wounded in the gun battle at Ghati. The police said the militants had been tasked to execute retaliatory fidayeen attacks.