Seven killed in fidayeen attack on Cong rally in Srinagar

Seven killed in fidayeen attack on Cong rally in Srinagar
Srinagar, May 21 (PTI) In an audacious strike three days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit here, two militants today carried out a suicide attack on a Congress rally opening fire and hurling grenades killing five persons, including two policemen, before being shot dead in a gunbattle with security forces.

Inspector General of Police K Rajendra Kumar, two DSPs, were among the 22 people injured in the attack on the Youth Congress rally at Sher-e-Kashmir Park at 1.15 PM, shortly before the arrival of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The rally was organized to mark the death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi observed as Anti-Terrorism Day.

The two militants in police uniform hurled grenades and fired indiscriminately while storming the meeting venue, where 3,000 Congress activists had gathered, triggering a fierece gunbattle with security forces as people scurried for safety.

While one militant managed to sneak into the park, his accomplice provided him fire cover from outside by exploding grenades and firing indiscriminately, eye-witnesses said.

They said the militants climbed on the dais, fired mostly in the air and lobbed two grenades towards security vehicles as reinforcements started pouring in to neutralise the ultras.

The militants were gunned down by security forces after the nearly hour-long standoff.

The Prime Minister condemned the "cowardly" attack and decided to go ahead with his two-day visit to Srinagar from May 24 for the second roundtable conference there on Kashmir.

Conveying his deep sympathy to the family of those killed, Singh said such attacks would not weaken the resolve of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to seek a peaceful resolution to the problems facing the state.

The Union Home Ministry has despatched a team of top officials led by Special Secretary (Internal Security) G S Rajagopal to Srinagar for an assessment of the situation in the wake of the terror strike.

Four of those killed have been identified as Constable Farooq Ahmad, Constable Muzaffar Ahmad of Indian Reserve Police (IRP) and civilians Nazir Ahmad of Frisal-Yaripora in Anantnag and Riyaz Ahmad Khan of Kupwara district. The identity of three others, including the militants, was being ascertained, officials said.

All but nine wounded have been discharged from hospital, IGP Kumar, who received three bullets in his legs, was operated upon and stated to be out of danger. Two Deputy Superintendents of Police were also wounded in the attack.

J and K Congress chief and Youth Services and Sports Minister Peerzada Mohammad Syed and other party leaders had a providential escape.

Two militant groups, including Al-Mansooriyan, have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Before being gunned down by security forces, a militant was seen firing in all directions prompting those who were inside the meeting venue, including women and children, to run for their lives.

All senior Congress leaders, including Peerzada Mohammad Syed and former minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir, escaped unhurt.

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