The authorities said they raided the mall after getting information that terrorists might be planning to enter the city
Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir are under fire after a police raid at a popular mall killed 10 people and wounded more than 50, prompting the authorities to arrest three paramilitary police officers suspected of complicity.
The raids were ordered after intelligence reports suggested militants were planning to enter the Srinagar city centre mall and carry out a major attack.
The operation came amid heightened tensions in Kashmir as the authorities conducted military operations targeting pockets of militants and rebels who have waged a insurgency against Indian rule since 1988.
“There is information that they have planned to enter the city and carry out some incident,” Deepak Kumar, the state’s top police official, told the Indian news channel CNN-IBN after the raid at the mall was carried out.
“We need to take immediate action. Therefore we are seizing about 60 of their hand grenades, AK 47 rifles and machine guns,” he said.
Q&A How did the insurgency in Kashmir begin? Show Hide Overwhelmed by poverty and facing massive unemployment, young men in Indian-administered Kashmir in the late 1960s took up arms against Indian rule. They were largely helped by Pakistan, which controlled parts of Kashmir until it was removed by an Indian military action in 1999. The fighting led to two failed coups in New Delhi and cost thousands of lives. The popular uprising against Indian rule will continue, the protest leaders say, though at a lower level than during the high periods of violence in the 1990s and early 2000s. It has had a noticeable impact in Kashmir: almost every encounter between militants and Indian security forces involves a civilian casualty. Read more
Immediately following the raid, hours after evening prayers, angry crowds took to the streets and blocked roads in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir. Large numbers of paramilitary police stood by. An official protest was held on Thursday night.
Civilians who were walking home from prayers at a local mosque fled the shop where the mall was located.
“I was celebrating the night of Friday prayers when they [cops] charged in,” said Bakshi Muhammad, an airport worker. “We ran inside the shop. I lost four relatives in the crossfire.”
The official death toll includes nine civilians and three militants. According to an official statement, six policemen were among the fatalities.
Husain Hasan of the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led All Parties Hurriyat Conference and an independent Kashmiri politician said in a statement that the raid was “a barbaric and unjustified act of state terrorism … aimed at creating an atmosphere of fear” in the city.
He said militants had infiltrated the city centre mall on Wednesday night. “The operation that followed today was a gross violation of international laws and human rights,” he said.
The DGP announced on Friday that three paramilitary police officers had been arrested and would be presented in court on Saturday.
The popular Angry Indian Muslims group claimed the raid on the mall was “scheduled to unleash inordinate fear in the minds of the people”.
The protests have prompted the Kashmir administration to order the closure of all government schools for two days for holiday.
On Friday, dozens of relatives and friends of those who were killed and wounded in the shootout gathered to mourn in front of police and paramilitary forces stationed outside the hospital.