M A I N   N E W S

Seven die as militants attack Congress rally
*IGP among 21 hurt *Lashkar, Al-Mansoorian claim responsibility
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Journalists take shelter during an attack by militants on Chief Minister’s rally in Srinagar on Sunday
Journalists take shelter during an attack by militants on Chief Minister’s rally in Srinagar on Sunday. — AFP photo

Srinagar, May 21
Merely two days ahead of the second roundtable conference to be held here, militants carried a suicide attack at a rally of the state Youth Congress, killing at least five persons, including two police personnel, and injuring about 21 today.

Two suspected suicide militants were also killed in retaliatory action by the police and security forces at Sher-e-Kashmir Park following the attack launched at about 1 pm. Those injured included the Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, Mr K. Rajendra Kumar, and two DSPs, one of them Faisal Ahmad of the Kothibagh police station.

Several Congress leaders, including the PCC chief and Minister for Youth Services and Sports Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and Works Minister Gulchain Singh Charak, had a miraculous escape. Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was also scheduled to attend the rally held to commemorate the 15th death anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was yet to reach the venue. Mr Azad later visited the spot and hospitals where the injured had been shifted.

Two militant outfits, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al-Mansoorian have claimed the responsibility of the attack, according to a local news agency. Four outfits — Al-Nasireen, Farzandan-e-Millat, Save Kashmir Movement and Al-Arifeen — on Saturday warned to sabotage the roundtable conference. These outfits had asked the separatist organisations not to participate in the second roundtable scheduled to start from Wednesday.

Those killed included three Congress workers and two police constables while at least 21were injured in the shootout. Two of the Congress workers killed were identified as Nazir Ahmad Mir of Yaripora, Anantnag, and Riyaz Ahmad Khan from Kupwara.

Witnesses said armed militants in police uniforms entered the venue through the main entrance and resorted to indiscriminate firing from automatic weapons. One of the suicide militants opened indiscriminate fire from the library building inside the park, while his associate opened fire from the nearby Polo Ground park opposite the venue. At least, four hand grenades were also hurled by the militants creating panic in the rally.

When the incident took place, a large number of Congress workers had gathered to attend the rally from distant parts of the valley. Traffic restrictions on the Sherwani road were already in force between the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) and Polo View in view of the Youth Congress rally.

Senior leaders, including Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and Gulchain Singh Charak, All-India Youth Congress general secretary Abdul Hannan, other state Congress leaders, including Abdul Ghani Vakil, former minister Mohammad Sharief Niaz and the state Youth Congress president Mohammad Amin and others were present on the occasion.



Change in schedule saved CM

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was to address the rally at 1:30 pm today and the fidayeen struck at 1:15 pm. The Chief Minister's visit was rescheduled as he had to attend another function organised by children at Cheshma Shahi here to pay homage to the late Rajiv Gandhi.

When Mr Azad was about to leave for the Congress rally, he heard that the militants had attacked the public meeting.

Despite the reports that the gunbattle between the militants and the security forces was continuing in the area, the Chief Minister preferred to visit the venue to enquire about the welfare of the people. — UNI


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