In a brazen terror attack on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit, suspected Hizbul Mujahideen militants today ambushed an Army convoy killing eight Army jawans and injuring 19 others near Hyderpora area on the outskirts of the city.
The attack, the second in three days and the deadliest so far this year, was claimed to have been carried out by pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen but security establishment believe that it was handiwork of banned Lashker-e-Taiba terror outfit.
The security has been beefed up across the state in view of the attack as intelligence inputs suggested that the militants may try to carry out more such attacks during the VVIP visit.
According to sources, unmanned aerial vehicles were also pressed into service to carry out technical surveilance of Pir Panjal and Zabarwan mountain ranges amid inputs that militants armed with rockets had formed their base in the ridges of these mountains.
Today's audacious attack took place at 1635 hours near Classic hospital on Panthachowk-Parimpora stretch on national highway leading to North Kashmir when a convoy of 35 Rashtriya Rifles was going to its base camp at Budgam.
Militants, armed with AK assault rifles, attacked the convoy from front as well as back and, according to eyewitnesses, three terrorists carried out the attack that left eight jawans dead and 16 others injured.
According to the Army, the condition of three jawans was stated to be critical.
The militants, who had snatched a motorcycle from two students in nearby Baghat area, fled from the scene on the two-wheeler as Army cordoned off the area.
While fleeing, the militants were intercepted by a joint naka party of police and CRPF at Barzulla. The ultras hurled a grenade and opened firing, resulting in injuries to a CRPF sub-inspector, a policeman and a civilian woman. The militants then boarded a black Santro car and sped from the place.
A high alert has been sounded and security forces have been asked to remain on look out for the car. Army pressed into service choppers in an attempt to track the car used by the militants. The students, whose bike was hijacked, told police that militants were armed with AK 47 rifles and spoke chaste Urdu, normally not spoken in Kashmir.
Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attack. A person Baliguddin, identifying himself as spokesperson of the outfit, called up a local news agency and said several squads have been formed and similar attacks will be carried out in the city in the future as well.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said such attacks will not shatter the morale of the security forces who have had great success in the past against the militant group.
"Such high profile attacks are aimed at restoring the shattered morale of the militants while trying to demoralise the security forces," he said.
Today's attack comes two days after Hizbul Mujahideen militants gunned down two policemen in the heart of Srinagar city.
The brazen attack came even as security has been beefed up across the Valley in view of Prime Minister's two-day visit starting tomorrow.
PMO sources in Delhi said that there was no change in Singh's programme. The Prime Minister is scheduled to reach here along with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on a two-day visit, during which he is expected to announce a package for border districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
Singh and Gandhi will also launch train service on a railway section between Qazigund in Kashmir and Banihal in Jammu region that will provide an all-weather link to the Valley.