On Tuesday terrorists attacked a police party following which a dreaded Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist, Abu Hanzala managed to escape at Srinagar. The incident took place at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital.
Scared patients, their attendants and the hospital staff - everyone - jumped and ran cluelessly to safety. There was complete chaos at the hospital in Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, according to eyewitnesses.
A group of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists had just stormed the high-security hospital around 11.35 am. The attackers managed to free one of their accomplices - a 22- year-old Pakistani terrorist - and killed two policemen escorting him.
Hanzala, who was caught in Kulgam in south Kashmir in 2014, had complained of itchiness over the past few days to the medical staff at the Central Jail Srinagar after which he was referred to the hospital for suspected scabies.
He had been referred to SHMS for specialised treatment, a police official here said, suspecting it was a clever decoy to dodge security and may have involved meticulous planning. Doctors at the hospital's dermatology department said scabies is the only skin infection which has no symptoms other than itchiness on the outside. Eyewitnesses said as soon as the firing began, everyone - except the five Kashmiri inmates who were also brought to the hospital for treatment - started running for safety, as two policemen lay on the floor after being shot by the assailants.
The five inmates lay on the floor when shots were fired. They did not attempt to escape, the eyewitnesses said. Investigators suspect Hanzala was provided a pistol by two unidentified people at the busy hospital and it was he who opened fire at the policemen before escaping into the narrow lanes of downtown Srinagar. Eyewitnesses said the cops were shot from point-blank range. "We heard three shots fired from point-blank range targeting the hearts of the cops before the prisoner along with two other persons, who were already there, fled the scene," an eyewitness, who was at the hospital during the firing, said.
However, DIG Central Kashmir range G H Bhat said Hanzala did not fire at the cops; they were shot by other assailants. The deafening sound of the gunfire led to chaos at the hospital. Frightened patients and attendants lay on the floor.
The people at the hospital became more scared when a large contingent of police and security forces laid a siege at the hospital, the eyewitnesses said.The CCTV camera footage, obtained by the police, showed three militants, including Hanzala, escaping from the hospital.
DIG Bhat said an alert has been sounded and the security forces were looking for the trio. He said reports that Hanzala and the two militants decamping with a police rifle were not true.