Thursday, August 16, 2001, Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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Ultras kill 5 in Udhampur
2 die in explosion; 22 hurt in blast near school
Tribune Reporters and agencies

Jammu, August 15
Despite unprecedented security measures taken across Jammu and Kashmir, militants struck at a number of places while people were celebrating the 55th Independence Day today.

In the Mahore area of Udhampur a group of militants swooped on Bela village pasture where shepherds were grazing their flock early this morning, killing five persons of a particular community and injuring one. Among those killed are three women and two men of two families.

After the militants left, three labourers went to the dhoke (temporary hutment) to retrieve the bodies. While they were trying to lift the body of a woman, an explosion took place, killing two of them and injuring the third.

The militants had thought the police would retrieve the bodies and there would be more casualties.

Those killed have been identified as Shivsaran (68), his wife Surma Devi (60), Partap Singh (63), his wife Kamla Devi (50) and Gouran Devi (48).

The labourers have been identified as Gulamdin (30) and Fateh Mohammad (27).

Official sources said the pattern of killing was similar to those adopted at three places in Kishtwar recently. They said since the militants had failed to disrupt the Independence Day celebrations in the Jammu region, they carried out the massacre to reveal their presence.

According to official reports, the militants hurled two grenades at the entry point of the venue where the celebrations were being held in Handwara in Kupwara district. Nine security personnel were wounded. The security forces retaliated in which nine civilians were injured.

Reports said it was only in Handwara that a large number of people, including children, were present during the I-Day function. The grenade attack was carried out when nearly 3,000 people were watching a cultural programme.

At a number of places in Baramula and Mattan, bomb explosions took place. The police said these explosions were engineered to scare people so that they did not participate in the celebrations.

Though the functions were held in all district and tehsil headquarters, peoplesí participation was limited.

According to a report from Srinagar, the DIG (BSF), Mr R.P. Singh, said the militants hurled a hand grenade towards a school at Chinar Bagh, where an Independence Day function was being held at Handwara around 10.45 a.m.

He said the grenade exploded near the parking place outside the school complex causing injuries to 18 persons, including BSF and RR jawans. However, the police said 13 civilians, including four children, four Armymen, two BSF and three police personnel were injured.

The injured had been hospitalised.

Meanwhile, an encounter took place at Yaripora in Handwara, a few km from the venue of the function, between the militants and the security forces.

The militants also detonated a powerful IED near dak bungalow in Sopore today. However, no one was hurt.

Deputy Commissioner Anantnag G.A. Peer had a miraculous escape when the militants detonated a powerful IED on his arrival at Mattan in South Kashmir. His bulletproof car crossed the area seconds before the blast took place.

His escort vehicle was, however, damaged in the blast. No one was injured.

An unidentified militant was killed in an encounter with the SOG and the Army at Arin near Bandipore in Baramula district of North Kashmir yesterday.

The police recovered the body of an unidentified person from Ashtingoo village in the same area yesterday.

A civilian, Manzoor Ahmad Shah, was injured when an unidentified militant shot at him in Nagri Malpora of Kupwara yesterday.

There was an explosion near the Treasury Office at Pulwama yesterday. No harm was caused.

A report from Jammu said a BSF Assistant Commandant and a jawan were injured in firing by Pakistani Rangers in the R.S. Pura sector of this division.

A BSF spokesman said here today the firing by the Rangers hit a BSF picket in the Jabowal area, wounding Assistant Commandant A.S John and constable S.S. Bittal. They had been admitted to hospital. Bittal was stated to be in a critical condition, the spokesman said.

The Rangers also opened fire along the international border at 12 places in the R.S. Pura, Samba and Akhnoor sectors since last evening, forcing BSF troops to retaliate, he said.

He said intermittent exchange of fire between two sides continued till this morning without any damage on the Indian side. Casualties, if any, on the other side, could not be ascertained.

Light arms firing exchange also took place along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Naushera sector of Rajouri district last night. However, no loss of life or damage to property was reported.

Meanwhile, three foreign mercenaries, belonging to Jash-i-Mohammad were killed in an encounter with the police in the Mandi area of Poonch today.

According to the SP, Dr Kamal Saini, the police had cordoned off the area on the upper reaches of Mandi. As it neared the hideout of the militants they came under heavy fire. In the retaliation three of them were killed. Two of them have been identified as Abu Tahir and Abu Safian.

Two assault rifles, a pistol and large quantities of ammunition, including grenades, were recovered from the slain militants.

In the Jammu mini-stadium, only about 200 persons were present when the Education Minister, Mr Mohammad Shafi, unfurled the national flag.

Senior police officers said fear kept people indoors. Separatists had circulated reports that Fidayeen attacks would be carried out and that people should keep away from these functions.Back

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