Srinagar: Three heavily armed militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) managed to strike near the Indian Air Force (IAF) airport in Srinagar in the wee hours on Tuesday. The militants, who had recently infiltrated from across the border, had carried out a reconnaissance of the area for some days before sneaking into the Border Security Force (BSF) camp in Humhuma.
The government forces launched a timely response to neutralise the terrorists before they could enter the Srinagar airport.
One of the militants was gunned down in a tin shed of the BSF camp, another one inside the officer’s mess while a third one who gave a long fight was killed inside the administrative block complex of camp.
The attack came even as the lack of security at the airport was often flagged as a major issue by the Indian Air Force, and due to which the Airport Authority of India (AAI) had not been able to operate civilian flights during night hours.
The airport is used primarily by the Indian Air Force to conduct air drills of its fighter aircraft and is one of the strategically important defence facilities where civilian operations often remain suspended due to security reasons.
The IAF has not allowed construction of an industrial estate near the airport citing security as the main reason. The lack of security arrangements outside the airport has also ensured that only a limited number of 52 flights operate in the day at the international airport.
But Tuesday’s attack came only after militants had carried out a survey of the area and had cut a barbed wire to sneak inside the BSF camp that is located close to the "entry gate" of the airport.
"The militants were heavily armed. They appeared to be in the age group of 20-25 years and possessed knives and cutters which they used to cut the wire and sneak into the camp that lied on the left side of drop gate. A judge lives nearby the camp and the militants carried out the initial reconnaissance before striking at the camp. While two militants were killed during the night operations only, a third militant continued to fire on the forces from inside the camp before he was killed in the afternoon," a senior police official said.
Besides the AK 47 rifles and pistols, some grenades were also recovered from the possession of the militants, said officials.
SP Vaid, Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir, said that the three militants were of JeM outfit. "One assistant sub-inspector of BSF was killed during the encounter while four other security personnel received injuries," he added.
A senior police official said that militants came from the Friends Colony side of the BSF camp. The camp lies within the 500-metre outer area of the airport.
Besides state police, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and BSF also provide security at the airport and the Kashmir Frontier Office of the BSF lies close by. The Srinagar International Airport facility is used after 5 pm by IAF pilots for air drills of fighter jets and houses important arsenal including the many variants of MIG aircraft.
The runway and the air traffic control is completely manned by the Indian Air Force and it is only the "civil enclave area" which is manned by AAI. "The runway and the air traffic control is with Airforce while as apron and tunnel building is with the AAI. The airport is used for joint sorties by IAF and AAI. Due to the lack of security in the funnel area of the airport the night landing of civilian flights couldn’t be carried out," said officials.
The civilian air sorties are made from 7 am to 5 pm and after that, the airport is used only by the IAF authorities for their operations.
Apart from the Srinagar International Airport, the only other strategically important airport in Kashmir is the Koil airport in Pulwama, which unlike the Srinagar airport has much heavy security arrangements.
Officials said that besides the inbound traffic of 26 civilian flights a day at the Srinagar airport, the outbound traffic is also an equal number of flights. Sharad Kumar, Director Airport, Srinagar, said that the "all operations on the airport were run normally despite the militant attack".
Updated Date: Oct 03, 2017 21:20 PM