Srinagar, Sep 21 (IANS): In a dramatic escalation in militancy, terrorists kidnapped and shot dead three Jammu and Kashmir policemen on Friday, stunning the police force. But the government denied that any policeman had quit following the murders and death threats by the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Three special police officers (SPOs), who form the lowest rung of the police force in the state, were gunned down on Friday, hours after they were abducted separately from their homes in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, a militant stronghold, police said.
A police officer told IANS that locals discovered their bullet-riddled bodies in a village in the morning. The dead men were identified as Firdous Ahmad Kuchai, Nisar Ahmad Dhobi and Kuldeep Singh.
The horrific incident took place days after militants issued threats at some mosques in Shopian, asking policemen to quit their jobs or face consequences.
This is the first time militants have seized and killed three policemen at one go since the start of the separatist campaign in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989.
Police said a total of four people, including a policeman’s brother, were abducted on Thursday night from their homes in Shopian’s Kapran and Batgund villages, surrounded by a thick cover of apple orchards.
The civilian was released unharmed after locals resisted his kidnapping.
Local news agencies on Friday quoted the Hizbul as taking responsibility for the abduction and killing of the policemen.
The police refuted rumours that the bodies of policemen were mutilated. “The bodies were riddled with bullets but not mutilated,” a senior police officer said.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police denied claims by five policemen on the social media that they had resigned after the killings in Shopian.
A police statement said that the videos uploaded on the social media showing the SPOs claiming to have quit were motivated.
“Services of SPOs are reviewed from time to time and based on these reviews some SPOs are disengaged. The videos … are motivated,” it said. “There have been no resignations by policemen after the killings of three SPOs by the terrorists.”
But the Jammu and Kashmir Police issued an advisory to all policemen on leave in south Kashmir to report for duty immediately.
The advisory directs policemen not to visit their homes till further orders.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police paid floral tributes to the slain men.
Senior officers led by S.P. Pani, the Inspector General of Police of Kashmir zone, offered the floral tributes in Shopian district’s police lines.
The police tweeted: “We have lost three of our brave colleagues in a barbaric terror strike… We condemn this inhuman act and assure that all the culprits shall be dealt with under law.”
Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said: “Three more policemen have lost their lives to militant bullets. Outrage, shock and condemnation will be expressed by all of us on expected lines. Unfortunately, it brings no solace to the families of the victims.
“Clearly, with the rise in kidnapping of police personnel and their families, the Centre’s muscular policy is not working at all. Dialogue, the only way forward, seems to be a distant dream for now,” she tweeted.
The SPOs are engaged in counter-terrorism operations on a meagre remuneration of Rs 6,000 a month. There are around 36,000 SPOs in the state. They are given uniform but, unlike other policemen, not all of them are issued weapons.
For some time, militants have been threatening the SPOs in Kashmir to quit, considering them as the eyes and ears of the administration.
The Friday killings are the latest in a series of attacks and abductions of Kashmir policemen and security men in south Kashmir.
On July 27, SPO Mudasir Ahmad Lone was abducted and released.
On July 20, constable Mohommad Saleem Shah, who was on leave was abducted from his home in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. His body was found in a village a day later.
On July 5, another policeman, Javaid Dar, was abducted near his home in Shopian district. His body was found in Kulgam district.
The militants have also killed soldiers visiting their homes on holiday.
And in August, the Hizbul abducted 11 family members of policemen after the police took a group commander’s father into custody. The policemen’s relatives were freed when the militant’s father was released.