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Panches, Sarpanches Soft Targets for Militants; Taking Steps to Ensure Their Safety: Kashmir Top Cop

Panches and sarpanches are soft targets for militants as around 90 per cent of them do not have personal security officers but the police are taking steps to ensure their safety, Kashmir’s IGP Vijay Kumar said on Saturday. His remarks came a day after a sarpanch was shot dead by militants in Adoura in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. This was the third killing of a local elected representative in the union territory this month.

“Panches and sarpanches are a soft target as about 90 per cent of them do not have a PSO (personal security officer). We have provided secure accommodation in Srinagar to those who face a threat. Some have been put up in district headquarters,” Kumar told reporters here. Referring to Friday’s killing in Kulgam, the inspector general of police said the sarpanch was given a secure accommodation at a hotel here but he left without informing the police.

“We regret it. I went to Kulgam and took a (review) meeting there, discussed the preventive measures and dos and don’ts. We will try our best to keep all the PRIs or PPs (protected persons) safe so that they can work in a safe environment,” he said. According to officials, terrorists fired upon the sarpanch, Shabir Ahmad Mir, near his residence in Adoura around 8.50 pm on Friday.

On March 9, an Independent sarpanch, Sameer Bhat, was shot dead by terrorists on the outskirts of Srinagar. On March 2, terrorists shot dead an Independent panchayat member, Mohammad Yaqub Dar, in Kulgam’s Srandoo area. Kumar said in every encounter, there is at least one Pakistani militant. Pakistan has instructed militants to carry out attacks near religious places so that they suffer some damage and people’s religious sentiments are stirred.

“Pakistan wants to create law and order problems. The militants are carrying out such activities on the directions of Pakistan. We are taking preventive measures and carrying out operations without any loss (damage) to religious places or any collateral damage,” he said. A Pakistani militant of Lashkar-e-Taiba was killed in a brief shootout with police near the Hazratbal shrine here on Thursday.

His aim was to attack the shrine guard and snatch his weapon, Kumar had said.

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