After Monday's twin attacks, is Srinagar back on the radar of militants?

The security grid in Kashmir was caught on the back-foot after a series of daredevil attacks by militants in less than 12 hours on Monday in the heart of the summer capital, Srinagar. The attacks, largely seen as a failure of intelligence agencies, have brought this city back on the radars of militant groups, having witnessed a temporary calm for the past few years.

The attacks came days after inspector-general of police, Kashmir division, Syed Javid Mujtaba Gilliani, said the poster boy of Kashmir’s militancy, Burhan Wani, was on his own as most of his accomplices have been eliminated in the anti-militancy operations in recent months. Gilliani said different security agencies have maintained pressure on militants and have been cornering them, while also minimising the civilian causalities and damage to public property.

“It’s because of this pressure that militants have resorted to such cowardly acts,” he said, after Monday's twin attacks.

Senior Police officials inspect the spot where militants attacked police personnel in Srinagar on Monday. PTI

Senior Police officials inspect the spot where militants attacked police personnel in Srinagar on Monday. PTI

Intelligence agencies say the attacks were carried out to show the reach and striking capability of militant groups, whose total strength has reached an all-time low due to large scale anti-militancy operations carried out by different security agencies. “These attacks were carried out to dare security agencies and it is a worrying development considering the importance of capital Srinagar,” an intelligence officer in the Kashmir Police told Firstpost.

A senior police official also confirmed to Firstpost that intelligence agencies had no whiff about the movement of militants in Srinagar, where a huge presence of human intelligence and a technology-driven surveillance grid had been laid to monitor people.

“There was no specific intel about the presence of militants in Srinagar and their plan of hit-and-run attacks,” the official, who wished anonymity, said.

“Otherwise full security measures would have been taken to prevent such fatal attacks which claimed the lives of three cops,” he added.

In Monday’s twin hit-and-run attacks by two motorcycle-borne militants in Srinagar, three cops were killed at point-blank range — much to the discomfort and surprise of the security establishment in the capital.

The first attack took place in old city’s Zadibal area which resulted in the death of two cops — Assistant Sub-Inspector Ghulam Muhammad Bhat and Head Constable Nazir Ahmad. Within hours of the first fatal attack, the second strike took place in the Tengpora area of Srinagar city, resulting in the death of Constable Sadiq Sheikh of the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police.

Militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen claimed the twin attacks on the cops in Srinagar and has warned of intensifying such attacks.

“The operation field commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen has directed the squad to continue and intensify the attacks,” Hizb spokesperson Burhan-ud-din was quoted by a local news agency as saying.

In the third attack, Jammu and Kashmir Police claimed to have killed two militants believed to be non-locals in a brief shootout in the Saraibala area in the vicinity of Srinagar’s commercial hub, Lal Chowk.

Late on Monday evening, the Kashmir Police launched house-to-house searches in the Saraibala locality when two militants hiding in a residential building fired on the cops resulting in a gunfight. One of the militants killed was identified as Saifullah of Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, while the identity of the other has yet to be ascertained.

The police said the group had come all the way from north Kashmir’s Sopore town. No additional details were provided by the police about the motorcycle-borne militants — who carried out the twin lethal attacks earlier in the day — or whether it was the same duo that carried out attacks through the day.

Last year, social media was abuzz when two young militants belonging to the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit posted photos on Facebook wearing branded clothes and aviators carrying out recon missions in Srinagar. Jammu and Kashmir Police’s director-general K Rajendra Kumar said the attacks were desperate acts by militants and that the cops are investigating the facts.

“This is their (militants) desperation to show their presence. We have managed to eliminate their leadership and other infiltrating groups,” Kumar told reporters after the wreath-laying ceremony for the slain cops yesterday.

While the northern part of Kashmir like Sopore, frontier district of Kupwara and southern militant hotbeds of Pulwama and Tral witnessed increased militant activities over the past three years, Srinagar city remained largely calm with small gunfights in the outskirts of Zakura and Ahmad Nagar.

Three years ago on 24 June, 2013, eight armymen were killed in one of the deadliest attacks on an army convoy on the National Highway in the Hyderpora area of Srinagar. Two days prior to this attack, two cops were killed in one of the busiest markets of Srinagar, Hari Singh High Street.

Security experts have raised apprehensions about the lack of coordination among security agencies to contain such attacks in the future. They said only time will tell if these attacks can be seen as the return of militancy in Srinagar, where a temporary lull was broken yesterday.

Updated Date: May 25, 2016 12:21 PM

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