Hajin (Bandipora): A group of Lashkar-Taiba militants on Tuesday evening launched a fierce attack on the army and police in Hajin area of Bandipora district. The attack came when people were offering Taraweeh prayers at about 9:30pm.
According to local witnesses, they heard loud explosions followed by intermittent gunshots from towards the campsite of army’s 13 RR unit. The location of the army camp is such that the establishments of police and their special operations group fall right beside it.
The militants, said to be four in number, came from three sides and launched UBGL grenade strikes from just outside the 13 RR camp, army said.
Officials said the strikes were immediately retaliated to by the army, police and special operations group. A massive exchange of gunfire continued for about 30 minutes, sources privy to the operation said.
There was no loss of life or damage to property reported by either the army or police, the police later said. The LeT militants, after launching what the army spokesperson termed as a “standoff” attack, managed to flee from the area.
Though Hajin has been one of the most volatile areas in the Valley for the past more than three years, it has never in the recent past witnessed such a fierce attack on security installations. The revival of Lashkar operatives in Hajin, even after the security establishment announced that last year’s operation at Chandargeer “wiped out LeT in the area”, proves the point of Hain’s strategic geographical importance for militants. In the Chandargeer operation, six foreign militants were killed, among them Osama Jungvi alias Owaid, the nephew of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. The group was led by Mehboob Bahi who was active in the area for quite a long time.
A police officer some time ago told Kashmir Reader that militants move through Hajin between north and south Kashmir. According to sources, militants stay in a dormant state in Hajin to facilitate movement of militants through Hajin. None of the groups who are active in Hajin have resorted to major attacks on army installations before. Tuesday’s attack has come as a surprise to both locals and the security establishment.
However, despite the “dormancy” maintained by militants in Hajin, army has killed almost all the old operatives in encounters since February 2015, including two locally recruited militants.
The police now say that there is a group of five militants active in Hajin, which includes local recruit Saleem Parray, and four Pakistani militants,. This is the group that the police have blamed for a spree of civilian killings in recent weeks. The group has reportedly been joined by another local recruit, Nisar Ahmad Dar, a few weeks ago.
After the attack on the army camp on Tuesday, the militants escaped and went to a nearby mosque where they addressed people. Militants addressing people publicly is a common sight in Hajin. After the police blamed LeT militants for carrying out civilian killings, the frequency of such public addresses has increased, with Lashkar militants denying their role in the killings of civilians.
Tuesday’s attack was owned by Lashkar in a statement issued to local news agencies. Spokesman Dr Abdul Gaznavi claimed that three army men were killed in the attack.