SRINAGAR: Militants on Thursday attacked the motorcade of senior PDP leader and J&K Works Minister Naeem Akhtar with a grenade in volatile Tral area of Jammu and Kashmir, killing two civilians including a lady and injuring 30 others.
SP Awantipora Mohammad Zahid Malik told New Indian Express that militants lobbed a hand grenade towards the motorcade of State Works Minister Naeem Akhtar at Tral market in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district at around 11.45 am.
He said the target of the militant attack was the minister, who was visiting the area to take stock of the ongoing developmental works.
The grenade exploded with a with big bang, causing injuries to the passersby and security personnel deployed for security purpose in the town.
However, the minister, who is also the government spokesman, escaped unhurt in the attack.
Two persons identified as Ghulam Nabi Trag (56) and 28-year-old Sikh lady Pinky Kour received critical splinter injuries and died while being shifted to the hospital.
The militant attack caused panic in the area with people running helter and skelter. The shopkeepers left the shutters of their shop open and fled to safer places.
The locals alleged that the security force personnel fired pellets after the militant attack, causing injuries to many people.
People injured in the militant attack were referred to a nearby hospital, where from nine injured were evacuated to Srinagar hospital for specialised treatment.
SP Awantipora said besides death of two civilians, 30 people including 21 civilians, 7 CRPF men and 2 policemen were injured in the militant attack and have been hospitalized.
According to Block Medical Officer (BMO), Tral, some of the injured have sustained pellet injuries.
However, SP Awantipora said security forces did not fire pellets.
“We did not fire pellets or bullet. The pellet injuries would be due to presence of pellets in the grenade,” he said adding pellets used in the grenade are splinters and people have sustained the splinter injuries.
He said the security personnel were not carrying pellet guns as they were not deployed for law and order duty. “They were carrying rifles for the security deployment”.
Asked how militants managed to attack minister’s convoy despite tight security measures, Malik said, “Tral chowk is a very busy place and there is always huge rush of civilians. We had taken all precautionary measures but there is always apprehension of such type of attacks in the congested places”.
Asked which militant group is behind the attack, SP said, “We are investigating the case and it would be too early to say anything”.
He, however, said there is likelihood of involvement of Jaish militants in the attack.
Talking to media persons after the attack, Works Minister Naeem Akhtar said it was very unfortunate that grenade was lobbed at his cavalcade in which two people including a lady were killed and 30 others injured.
He said tragic loss of innocent lives in the incident will always pain and haunt him.
“The perpetrators must eschew the path of violence because till date they have accomplished nothing out of bloodshed except adding to the miseries and sufferings of the people,” Akhtar said adding, “The attacker was neither a friend of Tral nor Kashmir nor Islam”.
He said the security forces exhibited lot of restraint after the attack.
Tral is the stronghold of the militants. The slain Hizb commanders Burhan Wani and Sabzar Bhat hailed from the Tral.
After the attack, Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh called Akhtar on phone to enquire about his wellbeing.
Meanwhile, militant groups Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba have condemned the grenade attack and civilian killings in the blast.
Both the outfits alleged that it was the handiwork of Indian agencies.
The grenade attack has also drawn strong condemnation from Governor N N Vohra, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh and other cabinet ministers and mainstream parties.
The separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik have expressed deep shock and grief over loss of lives and injuries in the grenade blast.
“The rampant construction of camps and bunkers by Indian forces in densely populated areas of the State has made lives of innocent people miserable and vulnerable,” they said.