|Relatives mourn Ghulam Nabi Lone. (AFP)
Srinagar, Oct. 18: An assassin stormed into the house of minister Ghulam Nabi Lone this morning and pumped bullets into his chest as he stood talking to visitors on the lawn in one of Srinagar’s most secure neighbourhoods.
A second militant was shot dead as he tried to force his way into the house of CPM state secretary M.Y. Tarigami next door.
“My guard fired at and killed one intruding militant while the other succeeded in entering the adjacent house of Mr Lone,” said Tarigami, who is on the hit list of several militant groups, the Hizb-ul Mujahideen in particular, as he is said to have had a hand in the mass surrender of militants in the late 90s.
The attack came as the state struggled to provide relief and shelter to the thousands made homeless by the October 8 earthquake. As large brigades of the army have been converted into contingents of care-givers in the past 10 days, around 25 people have died in militant strikes.
Tarigami was getting ready to leave for the funeral of a CPM leader gunned down yesterday when the militants struck at 9 am.
Two militant groups ' al Mansoorian and the Islamic Front ' have separately claimed responsibility.
Analysts say militants are trying to show they can still strike despite losing many of their own in the earthquake.
Police have no clue how the two militants in police uniform had entered Tulsi Bagh, home to many senior ministers, politicians and bureaucrats, where all visitors are searched at a drop gate at the entrance.
Every house has a bunker each at the front and back gate, manned by police and paramilitary forces.
A motorcycle was found near the drop gate, triggering speculation that the militants who came in police uniform might have used it. But no confirmation was available.
A CRPF head constable posted at Tarigami’s house said: “I saw a suspicious looking gunman approach the entrance being guarded by my men. He opened fire and killed a policeman. My men retaliated, killing the intruder.”
But Lone’s assassin escaped, leaving an AK-47 rifle, three magazines and a jacket near a wall at the back of the house.
A securityman at Tarigami’s house and two guarding Lone were killed in the attack. A man identified as Ghulam Mohi-ud-din, who had come to see the minister, also died.
Paramilitary and police reinforcements reached the spot immediately and the area, which is barely 2 km from the city centre, was surrounded.
Lone, a doctor who joined the People’s Democratic Party just before the last elections, is the third junior minister to be assassinated in the state.