Sunday, September 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Minister escapes bid on life
Blast kills 2, injures 15
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Kulgam (Pulwama), September 21
Minister of State for Tourism Sakina Itoo today escaped the fourth bid on her life by militants active in Pulwama, Anantnag belt. Today’s attack was the second attack on Itoo within 24 hours. A grenade attack had been launched at her Noorabad residence in Anantnag yesterday at 8 pm. While the Minister was unhurt, the IED blast in Meerhama village of Kulgam segment (Pulwama) at 11.30 am today claimed the lives of a CRPF constable and a 22-year-old village girl Maimoona Akhtar. The CRPF jawan was killed during the blast and Maimoona, security personnel informed, was killed during cross-firing between jawans and militants.

Relatives cry near the body of Maimoona Akhter
Relatives cry near the body of Maimoona Akhter, after a landmine explosion in the village of Meehama, 75 km south of Srinagar on Saturday. — Reuters photo

Five grievously injured CRPF jawans were admitted to the emergency ward of Kulgam Hospital and eight villagers were also injured later during cross-firing between security personnel and terrorists. Heavy firing took place on the middle school building of Merhama, where classes were in progress. Significantly, villagers maintained that there was no cross-firing. They said the security personnel panicked after they lost a jawan in the blast and they started firing at the school building in anticipation of militants being around.

Said a relative of Maimoona who was killed this morning: “As soon as the blast occurred, Maimoona, who was outside, entered the middle school, located next to the bridge where the blast occurred. She was hit by five bullets in her neck when she was still inside the school.”

Seven kids of the middle school have also been injured seriously. Two of them — six-year-old Rasia Nazir and nine-year-old Sartaj Ahmad have been referred to Barazalla Hospital in Srinagar. Another 60-year-old Abdul Rashid Mir has sustained a bullet injury on his head and is said to be in a serious condition, so are Abdul Khaliq and Roop Kishan Kaul. When The Tribune team reached Meerhama, located 80 km from Srinagar, it found that splinters had fallen all over. There was engine oil all over the village roads because the engine box of the CRPF vehicle had been blown off.

Eyewitnesses said the front side of the vehicle was lifted in the air right after the blast, while the tailboard in its rear part covered some distance, scratching the entire bridge area. So powerful was the blast that it not only completely damaged the escort vehicle of Ms Itoo, but also ripped the Meerhama Bridge apart from a particular spot. Soon after the blast, additional companies of the Rashtriya Rifles and the CRPF were posted at Meerhama, which is considered to be heavily under militant threat. Senior CRPF officials, who reached the village to inspect the site, said the “explosive device had been planted very meticulously.” The condition of the village bore a testimony to these remarks of the official.

Ehsan Fazili adds: Meanwhile, security men on duty informed Ms Itoo had a marginal escape. Said SHO, Kulgam: “The first escort vehicle and another vehicle carrying Ms Itoo had already crossed the bridge when the blast occurred. The damaged vehicle was following Itoo’s vehicle.” He added that the police had been requesting candidates to inform them about the routes to be taken so that the same could be sanitized. “No one however does that,” he said, adding that although the police had road operating parties for inspection of routes, they could not be everywhere all the time.

Elsewhere, at least 10 persons, including four militants and two activists of the CPM, were killed in separate incidents in the Kashmir valley since yesterday.

Two workers of the CPM — Zahoor Ahmad and Abdul Rahman — were killed by unidentified militants at Okai in the Kulgam area of Anantnag district last night, the police here said.

A truck driver and his conductor were killed by unidentified militants near Haddi Kulgam in Anantnag district last night.

Four unidentified militants were killed in an encounter with the SOG of the J&K police and Army at Zarander in the Kulgam area of Anantnag district.

Unidentified militants shot dead Javed Iqbal Shah when they intruded into the house of Abdul Ahad at Palapora, Kangan in Srinagar district last night.

The police found the body of Moulvi Ghulam Hassan Qureshi of Achchabal from Brah Achchabal in Anantnag district. He had been kidnapped by militants.

An official spokesman said militants hurled a hand grenade towards a Congress rally in Kokernag in south Kashmir this afternoon, resulting in injuries to 10 persons, including three women.

The injured were hospitalised where the condition of some of them is stated to be critical.Back

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