Photo. — File Photo by AFP
SRINAGAR: Militants disguised as cricketers killed five paramilitary police in an ambush in the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir Wednesday, officials said, in the deadliest attack for nearly five years.
Two gunmen from the local Hizbul Mujahideen group, which claimed the attack, were shot dead after the assault on a playing field in the Bemina district of Srinagar that is home to a police school and barracks.
A senior police officer, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the men pretended to be joining children for a game of cricket before taking out automatic weapons from a bag and throwing a grenade.
“They first mixed up with the children playing cricket,” said the officer, who was not authorised to speak to the media.
Four civilians were also injured, said a police statement.
The Kashmir News Network (KNS), a Srinagar-based news agency, reported receiving a call from a Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman who claimed the “guerilla attack” and said others would follow.
Indian Home Secretary RK Singh alleged that up to four men might have been involved and the dead gunmen appeared “not local but from across the border.”
Wednesday’s deaths marked the deadliest single day for Indian security forces since July 2008 when a landmine killed nine soldiers on a bus on the outskirts of Srinagar.
The Himalayan region, where a 20-year anti-India insurgency has waned in recent years, has been tense since the execution in February of a local separatist over a deadly 2001 attack on the national parliament in Delhi.
Mohammed Afzal Guru was convicted over the attack, but he retained widespread support in Muslim-majority Kashmir where many doubted his guilt.
Much of Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both, has since been put under curfew repeatedly while protests and strikes have disrupted daily life.
Separatists called a strike on Wednesday and a 24-year-old man taking part in a protest to demand the return of Guru’s body to Kashmir was shot dead by police in Srinagar, a source at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences hospital told AFP.
Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had argued recently that the government should withdraw emergency laws that give security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir near-complete legal immunity.
The attack will likely undermine his campaign, which he sees as necessary to defuse local resentment about human rights abuses and heavy-handed policing by the hundreds of thousands of troops in the region.