Suicide attack on Indian Kashmir govt building

At least two police officers were killed on Thursday when heavily armed militants raided the administrative headquarters of Indian Kashmir, trapping about 250 civilians who were later freed by the security forces, officials said.

A paramilitary officer said “two or more” militants had sneaked into the fortified complex of government buildings in the Kashmir summer capital, Srinagar, on a suicide mission.

An intense rattle of gunfire forced about 250 people, among them government workers and members of the public, trapped inside to wait for armoured military trucks to ferry them to safety, witnesses said.

Within two hours of the 2.30pm local time attack, all had been rescued, said K Srinivasan, deputy inspector general of the Border Security Force (BSF), which is heading the operation to flush out the rebels.

“All of them are out,” Srinivasan said late in the afternoon. “We will start the operation [against the rebels] once we are sure there are no civilians inside.”

He said “two or more” rebels were holed up inside the complex.

Ghulam Khadir, a state administration employee, said he is lucky to be alive.

“We heard gunshots and we ducked for cover and remained inside one of the buildings as the firing grew, but then soldiers came in and rescued us,” said Khadir.

“It was a terrifying moment,” he said after the rescue.

BSF troops carrying heavy weaponry surrounded the complex, located on the banks of the frozen river Jhelum, and fired into offices where they believed the militants were holed up, witnesses said.

“Two policemen have been killed in return fire and six people, including civilians, are injured,” BSF spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said at the snowbound complex, adding that two of the victims are in critical condition.

The attack comes as the Kashmiri administration grapples with the heaviest snowfalls in two decades, which have brought the region to a near standstill, and avalanches in southern districts, which have killed 231 people.

Thursday’s raid was the third by suspected rebels on government establishments this year in Indian Kashmir. Last month, they targeted the local income tax and regional passport offices.

It was the first major attack since India and rival Pakistan agreed last week to restart after more than 50 years a bus service between the two zones of volatile Kashmir, the cause of two of the three wars between the two nuclear-armed neighbours since their 1947 independence.

The complex targeted for Thursday’s attack houses hundreds of government employees who oversee the civilian administration of the troubled Muslim-majority region, where more than 40 000 people have died in a rebellion against Indian rule since 1989.

Police and troops cordoned off the complex, which is next to Indian Kashmir’s legislative assembly.

India says that despite the tentative peace process with Pakistan, Kashmiri guerrillas continue to be aided from across the border in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Islamabad denies the charge but offers open support to what it calls the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-rule.—Sapa-AFP


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