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Gunfight ends in Srinagar

Shujaat Bukhari

Suicide squad killed, 72 people rescued after 24-hour battle


  • 24 people, including seven journalists, injured
  • One soldier injured in direct fight
  • Identity of militants not yet known
  • Security forces drilled holes in buildings to put in grenades

    SRINAGAR: After 24 hours, the clash between security forces and the militants ended on Saturday with the killing of two `fidayeen' (suicide squad members). While 72 persons were rescued, two security force personnel got killed and 24 people, including seven journalists, were wounded.

    Director-General of Police Gopal Sharma told reporters that the identity of two militants was not yet known. "The operation was carried out carefully to avoid civilian casualties as also the loss of property." Two AK rifles and some ammunition were recovered.

    With the heavy presence of police and the Border Security Force (BSF), life in the city centre of Lal Chowk and Budshah Chowk was disrupted as the gunfight between the forces and the militants took the centre-stage. It was a curfew-like situation in the Civil Lines as whole area was sealed. Soon after the militants sneaked into the area on Friday evening by hurling grenades and opening fire, the area rattled with the gunfire and wore a battlefield look. It was a testing time for the security forces.

    Two jawans of the BSF and the CRPF died in hospital. A grenade explosion and a burst of fire left seven journalists in a pool of blood. Muzaffar Ahmed of Sahara TV is battling for life.

    Nearly 100 people were trapped in buildings and going after the militants was not easy. The intermittent firing continued through the night and the militants kept on changing their positions in two buildings. "Our men drilled holes to put the grenades inside to flush them out," said a senior security official. They managed to enter a hotel complex where the militants were holed up, he said. One soldier was injured in a direct fight.

    The militants later barricaded themselves in a shopping complex and a hotel, and fired heavily. While many people managed to flee from the scene till late in the evening the security forces rescued 72 people who remained trapped in a hotel, a bank and a newspaper office.

    Deputy Inspector-General of BSF, K. Sirinivas, himself led the rescue operation. By putting an armoured bunker in front of the UCO Bank, which was opposite the building occupied by the militants, the BSF helped 24 bank employees and others to come out safely. "It was a difficult decision to delay the operation and first rescue the civilians," he told The Hindu.

    "It is really a new life for us. We are thankful to those who rescued us," said UCO Bank Manager Azad Allaqaband. Two tourists hiding in the hotel were rescued after 20 hours. Around 20 people were trapped in the office of the local daily Aftab.

    Claim responsibility

    Militant groups, Al-Mansooreen and Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the raid. "Four Mujahideen of Al-Mansooreen and Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen groups who have engaged the forces in a fierce gun-battle are safe and have inflicted heavy casualties on the security forces," a spokesman of the Jamiat told a news agency.

    But the police said there were only two militants. Later, a group of youth clashed with the police demanding the bodies of the militants killed. Police used teargas shells to disperse them.

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