Civilian killed in shootout at
bypass hotel Srinagar
LET calls it fidayeen attack on Army convoy; claims to have video footage
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Srinagar, Oct 19: One civilian died and two others sustained injuries when a group of four heavily armed militants carried out a fidayeen-type strike on a three-star hotel on the National Highway Bypass in outskirts of this capital city today. Contrary to the Police claim that there was no military or paramilitary movement around the timing of the shootout, militant outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyiba claimed that four of its cadres conducted a suicidal attack on an Army convoy and returned to their hideout safely.
Hotel Silver Star, that belongs to a prominent businessman and the former Treasurer of J&K Cricket Association (JKCA), Gazanfar Ali Mir, and is situated on the highway bypass between Lasjan and Nowgam, became the scene of intensive AK-47 firing at 4.30 p.m. today. Police sources said that a group of three to four militants, carrying AK-47 rifles, trooped into the lounge of the 5-storeyed hotel building. Claiming to quote the hotel staff, these official sources said that the gunmen commandeered some workers and employees to first and second floor of the building.
When the hotel workers, according to Police sources, attempted to run away, the gunmen fired upon one of them and left him wounded. He died within minutes. Police sources identified him as Farooq Ahmad Bhat S/o Ghulam Nabi Bhat R/o Luryar, Tral. According to these sources, another hotel employee, namely Bilal Ahmad Lone S/o Abdur Rasheed Lone R/o Pukhripora Beerwah, Budgam, was fired upon after he was ordered to recite Kalima. With a gunshot wound in his hand, he is now under treatment at Bone & Joint Hospital Barzulla, in
These sources said that the third hotel employee was also targeted when he made an unsuccessful attempt to escape. He was critically hit in his abdomen and his intestines were visible from outside when he was evacuated and admitted to SKIMS Soura. He was identified as Anees Ahmad Wani S/o Habibullah Wani R/o Divar Anderbug, Lolab, Kupwara. Doctors at SKIMS maintained that he underwent a surgery and was responding to treatment. However, he was not declared out of danger till late tonight.
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Zone, S.M. Sahai, told mediapersons on the spot this evening that it was not clear whether the attack was aimed at the hotel or a party of security forces on the nearby highway. “They must have been 3 to 4 militants and we have launched an operation to nab them”, the IGP said. According to him, the motive of the attack was not immediately clear. He said that Police reached the spot quickly and carried out an extensive search of all rooms and halls of the hotel. However, neither any militant nor any weapons or other belongings of the attackers were recovered.
A senior Police official revealed to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity that ‘Sajjad Group’ of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba had carried out the attack. Quoting ‘credible inputs’, he said that three to four militants carrying AK-47 rifles reached the hotel gate in a vehicle. As their vehicle sped away, they walked into the hotel and began issuing different directions to the staff. Minor resistance from some among the staff led to opening of firing by the militants.
Sajjad is a resident of Zewan village, not far away from Hotel Silver Star, and believed to be operating in Zewan, Khrew, Pampore, Kakkapora, Pulwama, Parigam, Newa and Nowgam villages.
JKCA too under scanner
The official said that Police were looking into different theories even as it, by no indications, appeared to be a fidayeen attack intended on Army or paramilitary forces. According to him, there was no military or paramilitary movement after 4.00 p.m. on the highway. It was also confirmed by Commanding Officer of a battalion of Rashtriya Rifles that had its ROP on the highway earlier today to ensure safe passage of the convoys.
According to the Police official, plans of the militants’ suicidal attack on a convoy were being examined though there was nothing substantive to indicate that the militants planned to carry out a fidayeen strike. He said that all other possibilities were being scanned. Significantly, owner of the hotel, Gazanfar Ali Mir, remained in news last year and earlier this year when he claimed on camera to NDTV that a prominent politician and top functionary of JKCA had barged into his hotel with his security guards and forced him to sign blank cheques of the association.
Sources said Police had information that Gazanfar owed an amount of Rs 1.50 Crore to another suspended functionary of JKCA, known as Mirza. He also owned an amount of Rs 2.75 Crore to one Ghulam Raza of Kargil. “However, it is difficult at this stage to suggest that the attack was essentially sequel to JKCA bickering or the hotel owner’s refusal to return money to his lenders”, said a Police official. He said that the picture would become clear within a week or so.
Neither Mr Gazanfar nor his son, Imran, who was reportedly present at the hotel at the time of the shootout this evening, could be reached for comment as their phones were continuously switched off.
‘Fidayeen on Army’
Contrary to the Police claims, chief spokesman of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Dr Abdullah Gazali, told Early Times through a VOIP-operated phone call this evening that four ‘fidayeen’ of his organisation had carried out the attack successfully. He claimed that all the four militants returned to their hideout safely after accomplishing their task.
Gaznavi claimed that the LeT militants attacked two fully occupied vehicles of a military convoy outside Hotel Silver Star. He said that a number of soldiers were believed to have died and several others injured in the attack. When it was pointed out to him that a civilian had died and two more sustained injuries inside the hotel, Gaznavi claimed that troops must have stormed the hotel after the militants escaped from the spot and the civilians must have died or got injured in that military action. He claimed that LeT had filmed the strike and it could release its video footage “very soon”.
However, Police and Army officials contradicted LeT claim strongly and claimed that there was no question of any casualty among the soldiers as they were not in movement or present in that area around the timing of the shootout.
Though routine militant firing has taken place several times in Srinagar since November last year and around half-a-dozen civilians and serving and retired Policemen have died in these hide-and-seek guerrilla attacks, last fidayeen attack in this capital city happened in January 6th, 2010. Two militants, a Police driver and a civilian died and the building of Punjab Hotel perished in the 24-hour-long gunbattle at the top business nerve centre of Lalchowk. Even particular suicide strike had also come after a long pause of three years in such kind of “made-for-TV” attacks.