30 Mar 2002
By Luv Puri
The body of a militant lying inside the Raghunath temple complex in Jammu on Saturday. — PTI
JAMMU MARCH 30 . In the first-ever attack by a suicide squad (`fidayeen') in the heart of the Jammu city, two terrorists struck the usually heavily-crowded Raghunath temple at 10.20 a.m. today. Both were killed and are yet to be identified.
The terrorists opened fire indiscriminately, killing seven persons, including three security personnel and a woman. Eighteen persons were injured and four were said to be in a critical condition.
Eyewitnesses told The Hindu that the two `fidayeen' came to the crowded Hari market adjacent to Raghunath Mandir, built 150 years ago by Raja Pratap Singh, and blew up a car by throwing a grenade on it. The blast created a panic among the people who started running for safety. The terrorists then started spraying bullets at civilians, killing two, identified as Santosh Kumar and Ashok Kumar. Security personnel opened fire at the terrorists, killing one. Taking advantage of the panic, the other terrorist ran towards the Raghunath Mandir and gunned down two special services bureau personnel guarding the main temple gate. The killed personnel were identified as Havaldar Sureshwar and constable Togan Taki hailing from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The terrorist entered the temple and fired at a Jammu and Kashmir Constable Dheeraj Kumar and Laxman Das, a shoekeeper. Both died on the spot. The terrorist entered the right side of the temple and opened fire at a woman, Ratna Devi, hailing from Gwalior. The woman, who was sitting beside her seven-year-old son, Guarav, was killed but the boy escaped unhurt. She had returned from a pilgrimage to the Vashino-Devi Shrine.
The terrorist then tried to fire at the priest, Jivan Anand, but he had run out of ammunition. Feeling that he was cornered, the terrorist, who was wearing belt-like contraption, blew himself up. Later, it was found to be a bag-and-catheter device. There was no damage to the temple. A bag containing handgrenades and other explosive material was recovered from the terrorists.
Tension at hospital
Later there was tension at the Government Medical College Hospital as a mine was found on the body of one of the terrorists which was brought for post-mortem examination. Hospital sources told The Hindu that a bomb squad soon arrived and the mine was defused. Police and CRPF blockades were set up at all exit points of the city and security was strengthened at all key buildings and installations. Shops were closed to protest the terrorist attack.
The State BJP unit blamed the State Government for not taking adequate steps to prevent these type of attacks and demanded the Chief Minister's resignation.
A painful act: Shabir
The Jammu and Kashmir Freedom Party president, Shabir Ahmad Shah, condemned the attack terming it a ``painful act''. ``Islam teaches respect of places of worship of all religions. The people-friendly and justice-loving people who are fighting for a bigger goal can never act like this,'' he said in a telephonic statement from New Delhi.
He said Kashmiris were passing through a crucial and critical phase and they had to maintain discipline and work for communal brotherhood at all costs.
It is desperation: Omar In New Delhi, the Minister of State for External Affairs, Omar Abdullah, said the assault was aimed at whipping up communal frenzy in Jammu and Kashmir and asked the people not to fall into the trap.
In a statement from Teheran, where he is on a two-day official trip, Mr. Abdullah said the attack ``proved the desperation of militants in their efforts to gain lost ground and they were not sparing even the devout in trying to achieve this aim''.
The Minister urged the people of the State, especially Jammu, to maintain calm and not fall into the trap of these anti-national elements.