Srinagar: Two truckers were killed and their apple-laden vehicles set ablaze after suspected militants fired indiscriminately at them on Thursday evening in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. Another truck driver was reported injured.
This is the fourth such incident in which a non-Kashmiri resident has been attacked by suspected militants this month in the southern region of the Valley.
One of the dead has been identified as Mohmmed Illiyas, a resident of Alwar in Rajasthan, while the injured has been identified as Jeevan from Hoshiarpur in Punjab. The identity of the other deceased is being ascertained.
Jammu and Kashmir Police officials said the trucks were passing through Chitragam village when they were fired upon indiscriminately by the gunmen, leaving those on board injured. Police officials told News18 that two among them succumbed to injuries at the spot while another was shifted to the Srinagar-based SMHS Hospital in a critical condition.
After the attack, the gunmen set ablaze the fruit-laden trucks, the officials added.
"It's an unfortunate incident. The truck drivers had ventured into interior areas without informing the security forces," a senior official said, adding that the bodies of the two drivers had been recovered while the injured was being evacuated to a hospital in Srinagar.
Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh said that terrorists in the evening fired at trucks near Chittargam in Shopian and injured three drivers. The terrorists stopped the trucks bearing registration number of Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab and started indiscriminate firing at the drivers who made an unsuccessful attempt to flee. They also torched two of the trucks.
Officials said police teams have been fanned out in the area to nab the culprits.
Several incidents of violence have been reported against non-local truck drivers and businesspersons since the government on October 14 lifted the ban on post-paid cellular services in Kashmir after a 72-day communication clampdown following the abrogation of Article 370 provisions. The same day, two terrorists shot dead the driver of a Rajasthan truck and assaulted an orchard owner in Shopian.
According to the police, the terrorists had carried out the attack in Shirmal village in desperation as fruit transportation was picking up in the Valley.
Two days later, a Punjab-based apple trader was killed and another injured in a militant attack in the militancy-hit district.
These incidents had created fear among the non-local transporters, which led to authorities setting up safe zones for fruit dealers in Shopian to procure and send the produce outside the state. Officials in the district administration said eight to nine "safe zones" have been earmarked in Shopian along the main roads in south Kashmir, to facilitate the fruit dealers to procure the fruits from the farmers.
The apple industry, considered the backbone of Kashmir's economy and livelihood for half of its eight million population, is already suffering huge losses due to the restive situation in the Valley since August. The militants earlier had issued threats to apple-growers, asking them to not harvest the crop in protest against New Delhi’s decision.
(With inputs from agencies)