Several communications towers have been shut down in parts of North Kashmir after a string of attacks and threats by suspected militants, who say cell phone services are being used to target their members.
The attackers, suspected to be militants, have in the past five days, shot dead one man who was working at a mobile phone shop in the volatile Sopore area and another man who had a cell phone tower installed on his property, police said. Three other people were injured in separate attacks.
More than 50 towers in the Sopore area of north Kashmir have been taken out of service, nearly shutting down all public communications in the vicinity, police said.
A file picture of SJM Gilani, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir at a press conference | Source: Kashmir News Service
"The cellular services are down and we are trying to restore them in a couple of days," SJM Gilani, Inspector General of Police for Kashmir zone, told Reuters.
Officials have expressed concerns that the violent targeting of something as ubiquitous as cell phone usage could create panic in Kashmir, a heavily militarised region where a separatist insurgency has simmered for years.
A mobile tower in Sopore | Source : Tribune
Companies affected include Aircel, a unit of Malaysia 's Maxis Communications Bhd, Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications and Idea Cellular, police said. Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance declined to comment.
Last week, posters bearing the name of Lashkar-e-Islam appeared in the Sopore area, demanding phone companies shut down their operations."Due to these cellphone companies, our commanders and militant brothers have been arrested or killed," read the one poster.
A representative image | Source : Daily Pakistan
"We warn all the people associated with the telecom companies to stop working for them and tower site owners to dismantle the towers. We also warn shopkeepers who recharge cell phones to stop it. If not, they will be killed," it said.
Police on Thursday, May 28 said that another local militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen may be behind the spate of attacks. A top police officer told Reuters that militants might be trying to prevent people from sharing intelligence with security agencies to help counter-insurgency efforts in Kashmir valley.
Yasin Malik with Syed Ali Shah Geelani at a public gathering | Source : u4uvoice
The attacks have resulted in various reactions from different separatist leaders.
JKLF chief Yasin Malik has asked Pakistan-based United Jihad Council (UJC) and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin to investigate into the matter and find out who all are involved in such barbaric attacks.
Hurriyat Conference (G) Chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani said that "people or agencies" involved in such incidents are enemies of humanity and are actually working against the "freedom struggle of the Kashmir" with their acts of terror.
The PDP-BJP government was quick to dismiss the remarks by the separatist leaders. "Police would bring facts to light and the culprits would be brought to justice by the normal course of law," said PDP spokesman Mehboob Beg.
Police, meanwhile, said they have arrested some of the individuals involved in this week's attacks, but did not disclose their identities or affiliation.
Feature image source : NDTV
(With inputs from Reuters)