Tuesday, May 16, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

J & K minister killed in landmine blast
Tribune News Service and agencies

SRINAGAR, May 15 — Jammu and Kashmir Minister of State for Power Ghulam Hassan Bhat was killed along with four others when militants triggered a landmine blowing up the vehicle on the Dooru-Qazigund road in Anantnag district this morning.

All five occupants of the bullet-proof car died on the spot, the police said. Others who died in the explosion included Ghulam Qadir Bhat and Farooq Ahmad, both PSOs of the minister, Rajiv Kumar, driver and a National Conference worker, Ghulam Mohammad Wani of Nava Dooru village.

Tension gripped the area following the incident, which took place at about 10 a.m. near Mandipora, about one km from the house of the minister. The minister was on way to Srinagar from his hometown Dooru about five km from his village. His car was blown up when he reached Mandipora.

This is for the first time that a minister was killed in a decade-long militancy, since the Farooq Abdullah government took over after a gap of over seven years in 1996. Earlier, a sitting MLA, Abdul Ahad Kar from Langate constituency in Kupwara district of north Kashmir was shot dead by militants in the first week of May last year, days after durbar was shifted to Srinagar from Jammu.

Within an hour of the explosion that killed the minister along with four others, another explosion took place on the same road, killing two jawans of the Border Security Force (BSF), police sources said. The vehicle in which BSF personnel were travelling, was damaged in the explosion. The police, however, said that the explosion took place at Khullar Khandiwari in the Kokernag area, which also falls close to the spot of the explosion that killed the minister.

The explosions sent shock waves among the police, security and administrative officials here. There were reports of only one minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Works Minister visiting the spot on the occasion.

JAMMU: About 120 km away from the site of these two incidents the militants targeted a police van wounding seven policemen at Nowgam on Banihal-Shaitani Nullah highway strip.

While six policemen were admitted to Banihal sub-district hospital, another seriously injured was flown to Jammu Medical College.

A hunt has been launched to nab the militants and security has been beefed up along the highway between Jammu and Srinagar.

The Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Mr G.C. Saxena and the Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, strongly condemned the assassination of Bhat.

Describing Bhat as a popular and respected political leader, Mr Saxena expressed deep shock and grief over this dastardly act by externally-aided militants aimed at disturbing normal life and developmental activities in the state. He extended his condolences to the bereaved families and prayed for peace of the departed souls.

The Chief Minister in his separate message has also strongly condemned the brutal killing of Ghulam Hassan Bhat and four others. 

Describing the killing as a dastardly act of Pakistan sponsored militants, Dr Farooq Abdullah said they were picking up soft targets to quench their thirst for blood. “Killing of political leaders and workers will not deter us from our chosen path to crush trans-border terrorism in the state”, he said.

Immediately after the news of the death of the minister reached Civil Secretariat, a meeting of the Cabinet was held under the chairmanship of the Housing and Urban Development Minister, Mr Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, to mourn the death.

All government offices were closed as a mark of respect to the departed soul. The government also ordered that the national and state flags fly at half mast on all government buildings. The Cabinet observed two-minute silence in memory of the departed souls and prayed for their eternal peace and appealed to all sections of society to maintain equanimity at this tragic juncture. The Cabinet also expressed sympathy and solidarity with the members of the bereaved families.

The Home Minister Mr L.K. Advani, today expressed grief at the killing of Bhat and condemned the dastardly act backed by the ISI.

The Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah along with Law Minister and the Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Gurbachan Jagat visited the village and condoled the death of the minister. They expressed sympathies to the members of the bereaved family.

Six militants, including a Pakistani infiltrator, were killed in separate militancy-related incidents across the border district of Rajouri since last evening. While army troops busted a militant hideout in Udhampur district and recovered a large cache of arms, ammunition and explosive including 60 kg of explosive and one five feet-long uniden rocket.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said troops during ongoing operations busted a militant hideout in Mahore Tehsil of Udhampur district and recovered a large cache of arms, ammunition and explosives.

Indian troops smashed what Army authorities said was a huge terrorist training camp in the dense woods near Yusmarg, about 40 km west of here, on Sunday night, killing six extremists.

The soldiers were joined by the Indian Air Force in the operation, which lasted for over 10 hours in the woods that camouflaged the camp where local extremists used to receive training.

"Initially we thought it was a hideout, but subsequent recoveries revealed that it was much more than that," an Army officer working with Victor Force of the Rashtriya Rifles told India Abroad News Service.

The Russian-made MI helicopters of the IAF were used to airdrop troops of 12 Sector Rashtriya Rifles, in forest area of Badgam district of Central Kashmir to smash hideouts of militants, the sources said.

Eight militants — two belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen and six to Lashkar-e-Toiba — were killed in the ensuing encounter which began on Friday last, the sources said.

They were first used in Doda district of Jammu region to demolish terrorist hideouts in an area not (not) inhabited by civilians.

The helicopters armed with machine guns and rockets were pressed into operation following a request from the Army to hit militant hideouts in snow-clad mountains in the Marwah area of Doda district on March 24.


Hizbul owns responsibility

SRINAGAR, May 15 (PTI) — Pro-Pakistan militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen today claimed responsibility for the killing of Jammu and Kashmir Minister of State for Power Ghulam Hassan Bhat and four others in a landmine blast in south Kashmir today.

A spokesman of the outfit told news organisations by phone that Bhat was on the hit list of the outfit for a long time for his "active participation in anti-movement activities".

In New Delhi, Home Minister L.K. Advani said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was behind the killing.

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