Pre-dawn gunshots twice in two days leave Sopore in fear

Pre-dawn gunshots twice in two days leave Sopore in fear
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Concerns over theft of car, motorcycle from court and hospital premises in Baramulla

Sopore: Gunshots suggesting intense firing were heard in the pre-dawn hours in Sopore on Thursday, two days after such gunshots were heard in the town at about the same time. These frightening sounds, coming at a time when the death anniversaries of Afzal Guroo and Maqbool Bhat are near, and with government forces tightening security all around, have gripped the locals in fear.
Residents of Sopore said that so many gunshots were heard at about 3 in the night that it seemed an encounter had started nearby. But a few minutes later there was silence, broken only by the barking of dogs.
Two days ago, gunshots after midnight were heard in the town, which the SSP Sopore, Harmeet Singh, said was the police doing practice fire.
Police are busy with security preparations ahead of Afzal Guroo and Maqbool Bhat’s death anniversaries. Since early Thursday morning, government forces have intensified frisking and have set up checkpoints at various places in Sopore town, including at the Bypass, in downtown, Chankhan, Batpora crossing, and in the native village of Afzal Guru, Jagir Ghat.
According to reports, frisking of commuters and vehicles has been started at various places. Even some lanes leading to the SSP office and the BSNL office adjacent to it have been closed with barbed wire and barricades.
Taja Begum, a resident of Iqbal Nagar, said that she and others have been told by the CRPF guard that the lane will remain closed for three days. She said it was the first time in her life that the lane had been closed like this.
Even the main downtown road was closed by the army in the morning. It was only after 9am that the army lifted their deployment and the road was opened for vehicles and commuters travelling to main Sopore town or outside Sopore.
Checkpoints by police and army have also been raised at various places in Baramulla, Handwara and Kupwara areas, local sources said.
Sources said that to thwart any possible militant attack, night patrolling has been intensified in parts of north Kashmir especially in main town Sopore.
Meanwhile, unidentified persons stole a Maruti car and a motorcycle from the District Hospital and from the Baramulla Court premises. According to reports, a Maruti car bearing number JK09 2097 was found missing from the hospital premises by the owner of the vehicle, Mohammad Amin, a resident of Ushkara Baramulla.
In a similar robbery, a Bajaj Pulsar motorbike bearing number JK05B 4673 was stolen from the Baramulla Court premises on Thursday afternoon.
The two robberies have led to a security alert, though a senior police official said that these were normal robberies and there was nothing to worry.
JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat, a resident of Trehgam in Kupwara, was hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail on February 11, 1984. Afzal Guroo, convicted for the attack on India’s Parliament in 2001, was hanged inside Tihar Jail on February 9, 2013. Mortal remains of both of them were not returned to their family.
Pro-freedom leaders have announced a protest programme for Feb 9 and 11, including a complete shutdown.