India: Nine Dead After Three-Day Gunbattle in Kashmir

Amin Masoodi
2016.02.22
Srinagar
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160222-IN-srinagar-620 Smoke rises from an Indian government building where militants took refuge during an ongoing gun battle on the outskirts of Srinagar, Feb. 22, 2016.
AFP

Three members of the Indian army’s elite Para forces and two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel died along with three suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants during a 48-hour gunfight on the outskirts of Srinagar, army and police said.

A civilian was also killed Saturday, police said.

“Three terrorists were killed in the final assault that was spearheaded by elite Para commandoes early Monday morning. A war-like store was recovered from the slain terrorists,” Maj. Gen. Arvind Dutta, general officer commanding of Srinagar-based Victor Force, told BenarNews.

The suspects were killed after they tried to flee from a fire caused by a mortar attack on the government building where they had holed up.

“I salute the slain security forces’ personnel who demonstrated exemplary bravery in the operation,” Dutta said. Soldiers continued to search for any other suspects hiding in the multi-story government building where the trio had taken shelter.

Convoy assault

The firefight erupted Saturday evening after a group of militants fired at a fleet of moving CRPF vehicles on Srinagar-Jammu national highway near the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI), a government-run institute.

Two CRPF personnel were killed and nine others injured. Civilian Abdul Gani Mir, 48, who worked as a gardener with JKEDI, was also killed Saturday, a police official said.

The militants then ran into the four-story JKEDI building and continued to shoot at security forces from the top floor.

“As part of a well-thought out plan, the Pakistan-backed militants chose to take shelter in huge building to inflict maximum casualties on security forces,” Rajendra Kumar, director general of police, told BenarNews.

“Police are investigating all angles of the terror attack to establish if the strike was a suicide attack. Initial investigations suggest all the three slain militants were operatives of LeT,” he added.

‘A close shave’

Police and army troops evacuated more than 100 trainees and faculty members from the institute and a nearby hostel on Saturday.

“It was a close shave with death. I saw three young men carrying guns and backpacks rushing toward the institute, firing gunshots,” Iqbal Ahmad, 27, a trainee and Baramulla resident, told BenarNews.

“Thankfully a policeman rescued me and many other staffers and trainees using a few bulletproof vehicles. As we were being taken out from the premises, a heavy volume of gunfire created more panic,” he added.

On Sunday, security forces used drones to locate the militants in the building. A day later, government forces fired mortar shells and rockets into the building, according to a police official.

“The top floor caught fire due to an intense firefight, forcing militants to come downstairs where they were killed,” he added.

Even as the gun battles continued over the weekend, residents of Pampore and nearby villages clashed with security forces barely 500 meters from the shooting site.

“Our freedom fighters and brothers are holed up in the nearby building but are fighting bravely against thousands of security men,” Afaq Ahmad Zargar 22, a college student and resident of Pampore, told BenarNews.

Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the protesters – at least 20 were injured, according to a police official.

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