Friday, September 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Firing at Lone’s funeral
Ashwini Bhatnagar
Tribune News Service

National Conference president Omar Abdullah
National Conference president Omar Abdullah(L) laying a wreath on the coffin of slain Jammu and Kashmir Law Minister Mushtaq Ahmad Lone at Sogam in Kupwara district on Thursday. Also seen in the picture is Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and his ministerial colleagues. — PTI photo

Sogam (Kupwara), September 12
Three Army jawans were injured when militants launched a daring daylight attack on Sogam village falling in the Lolab Assembly constituency when the funeral oration (namaz-e-janaza) for the slain Law Minister Mushtaq Ahmed Lone was about to begin this afternoon.

The Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, and his son, Mr Omar Abdullah, had just landed in the village when the attack was launched. The Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, was also to land a short while later but his arrival was delayed till after the militants had been chased away. Mr Fernandes, besides paying his tributes, also visited the family of the slain National Conference leader.

The exchange of fire between the Army men guarding the outer perimeter of the village and the militants continued for more than 20 minutes. The militants used rifle grenades and other automatic weapons in the attack and came within 700 metres of the funeral venue. They managed to escape into the thick jungles near the village when the Army retaliated with heavy fire. No civilian casualties have been reported. Dr Abdullah was speaking to journalists after landing in the village when the gunfire first rang out. As security men took up positions around him, he remained calm and asked journalists and others not to panic. 

Commandos surround Jammu and Kashmir Chief minister Farooq Abdullah
Commandos surround Jammu and Kashmir Chief minister Farooq Abdullah at the funeral. — PTI photo

“Our resolve will not be crushed by all this,” he declared even as the sound of loud explosions reverberated through the beautiful Lolab valley. “Our friends across the border don’t like what is happening here. But so what? The democratic process will go on and one of my Cabinet colleagues has already laid down his life for it,” he said while referring to Mushtaq Lone.

When questioned about the security lapses that may have been responsible for his death, Dr Abdullah said that there cannot be any foolproof system. “We plug one hole and they find five others. I may be killed tomorrow. Please note this down,” he told the journalists.

Though Dr Abdullah and his son were shielded by the boundary wall of the compound where the funeral procession was to be held, hundreds of people waiting to pay their last respects to the slain leader in the open ground neither panicked nor did they become restive. They waited patiently for the dignitaries to come and pay their floral tributes to Lone. Representatives of major political parties were present at the funeral.

Even as gunfire continued and even seemed to move closer towards the venue, Dr Abdullah and other political leaders placed wreaths on the coffin of Lone. A contingent of the state police sounded the Last Post and reversed arms about the same time as two rifle grenades exploded just outside the village. According to eye- witnesses, eight or nine militants were involved in the attack.

In another incident, militants blew up a CRPF jeep with a powerful IED in Fatehpur village, about 8 km from Rajouri. Though the jeep was extensively damaged, the CRPF personnel escaped unhurt.

UNI adds: Eight militants, including five foreigners, and two security force jawans were killed in the Kashmir valley since last evening.

A BSF spokesman said militants hurled a hand grenade towards a BSF bunker near Islamia College in the downtown city last night, resulting in the death of Constable Lakshmi Bhai, a resident of Gujarat.

Official sources said a jawan of the SSB, who was injured in a grenade attack by militants on the motorcade of Congress candidate from Khan Sahib Assembly constituency Tariq Mohiuddin on September 10 evening, died in the hospital today. The police said Special Operation Group of Jammu and Kashmir Police and 98 batallion BSF arrested two Al-Burq militants early yesterday.

The militants were taken to a hideout for arms recovery, police said, adding that on their way back to the camp, the party was attacked by supporters of the militants at Beerwah in the central Kashmir district of Badgam late last night.

SOG and BSF personnel also returned the fire and the exchange continued for some time during which both arrested militants were killed. Later, the body of another militant was recovered from the same area.

However, local residents took to the streets alleging that all the three were killed in a fake encounter.

An official spokesman said security forces killed two foreign militants each at Ahangam in the frontier district of Kupwara and Chunt-Naliwar last evening.


Lolab to go to poll on Oct 8

New Delhi, September 12
The Election Commission is understood to have decided to hold elections on October 8 to the Lolab Assembly constituency, from where Jammu and Kashmir Law Minister Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, who was a candidate, was killed in a terrorist attack yesterday.

EC sources said election to that constituency is likely to be held along with other constituencies going to the polls in the fourth phase of polling. The election to that constituency was countermanded yesterday with the death of Lone, who was seeking re-election from that constituency. PTI

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