Lucknow/New Delhi : Seven Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and a civilian were shot dead by masked terrorists who attacked a CRPF camp before dawn Tuesday in Uttar Pradesh, picking out targets in groups.
The gunmen got into the CRPF Group Centre located on the outskirts of Rampur town, some 300 km from Lucknow, around 3 a.m. and opened fire with AK-47 rifles, Inspector General of Police Gurbachan Lal told IANS.
The attackers were believed to be from the Lashker-e-Taiba, which is based in Pakistan and is active in the Islamic separatist campaign in Jammu and Kashmir, police sources said.
Lal said two gunmen were involved. CRPF sources put the figure at four.
According to CRPF officials, the terrorists first opened fire at the camp’s first gate, killing two sentries, and then two more at the next gate. They then barged into the nearest tent where they shot dead three CRPF personnel.
The civilian who died was reportedly a rickshaw puller. He was hit in firing as the militants fled from the CRPF base.
Five CRPF troopers, a police constable and a Home Guard official were injured in the audacious attack. They were taken to Moradabad town for treatment and their condition was stable.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati announced a compensation of Rs.100,000 to the families of each of the dead men.
CRPF officials told IANS in New Delhi that three of the attackers escaped but the fourth accomplice was still believed to be inside the camp premises.
Special Task Force (STF) commandos rushed from Lucknow to Rampur after the attack. CRPF and police personnel fanned out in the area to nab the militants. The police have cordoned off the camp.
“We will not allow them to get away with this. I am confident my boys will track down the culprits who are obviously associated with some Islamic militant group,” Uttar Pradesh principal home secretary J.N. Chamber told IANS.
Lal, however, insisted that there could only have been two terrorists. “Both fled as the CRPF men fired back. At least one of them had probably been shot in the leg because he was seen limping away,” he said.
Lal said a public road that ran through the CRPF base had been closed after serial blasts ripped courts in Uttar Pradesh in November last year killing at least 13 people.
“However, the possibility of the terrorists using this route to escape cannot be ruled out,” he said.
In New Delhi, Home Minister Shivraj Patil condemned the killings and said the central government had sought details “about the facts and circumstances of the incident”.
He said that concerned authorities had been asked to take immediate and effective measures to identity and trace the culprits and bring them to book.
Intelligence sources told IANS in New Delhi that the CRPF as well as the Uttar Pradesh Police had been warned last month about possible terror attacks on the Rampur camp, which also serves as a recruitment centre.
The sources said the warning was given in the wake of the court bombings in Uttar Pradesh. An attack was feared during a recruitment process that ended Dec 28. The attack happened three days later.