Suspected members of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba shot and killed two policemen Tuesday in a daring daylight assault in Indian Kashmir during which they freed a top LeT operative after nearly four years in custody, authorities said.
A manhunt was under way across the region late Tuesday after a high-level security alert went out following the attack on a police team at a hospital in Srinagar, the largest city in Indian-administered Kashmir. The prisoner who escaped, Naveed Jat (alias Abu Hanzullah), is a 24-year-old Pakistani national and alleged LeT cell commander in Kashmir, whom officers had escorted for a routine medical check-up, a local deputy police chief said.
“He managed to escape from police custody during the attack. We are not sure how many attackers [there were]. The police team could not retaliate because a large number of innocent people were present near the site of the hospital,” Ghulam Hassan Bhat, central Kashmir’s Deputy Inspector General of Police, told BenarNews.
The assailants opened fire at the police team outside the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, Bhat said. The attack began when a police escort of 24 officers and six detainees, including Jat, were entering the hospital’s main gate.
“We believe there were just two attackers, who knew Jat was to be brought to the hospital today. They were waiting near the main gate of the hospital and especially targeted policemen who were guarding Jat,” a police official told BenarNews on condition of anonymity, adding, “It was a well-coordinated attack.”
Jat, a resident of Pakistan’s Multan city, was arrested in 2014 in Kashmir’s Kulgam district on suspicion of being involved in a series of attacks on Indian security forces in the disputed Himalayan region. Before his arrest Jat had headed an LeT cell in Kashmir for two years, Bhat said.
The policemen killed on Tuesday were identified as constables Mushtaq Ahmad and Babar Ahmad.
Claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan and divided between the two countries by a de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC), the Indian side of Kashmir has grappled with a separatist insurgency that has claimed over 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.
Indian Kashmir’s Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti condemned the attack.
“Grieved to hear two policemen lost their lives in [the] militant attack. My heartfelt condolences to [the] families of the slain,” Mufti said on Twitter.