M A I N   N E W S

Militants strike in Srinagar, cop killed
Over 100 civilians rescued; two ultras holed up in a hotel

Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 6
Militants struck in Lal Chowk here today and engaged security forces in a fierce gunbattle, leaving one policeman dead and three CRPF jawans seriously injured.

At least six civilians, including photo journalist Rouf Ahmad of News 24, were injured in the first flurry of gunshots and grenade attack by the militants. Though most of the injured are out of danger, a civilian hailing from Zainakote, Srinagar, who sustained a bullet wound, is in a serious condition.

Official sources said the operation would most likely resume tomorrow as the militants were hiding in Punjab Hotel and darkness made the continuation of the operation dangerous.

CRPF, DIG, Nalin Prabhat said he had confirmation about the presence of two militants, who were probably Pakistanis. He said there could be more of them.

However, a top official told The Tribune that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was behind the attack and identified one militant as Qari Usman of Pakistan, as per the intelligence report. Earlier, a man claiming to be a spokesperson for an outfit, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, called up a local news agency and claimed responsibility for the attack.

The militants first lobbed two grenades at a CRPF post in Lal Chowk around 2 pm and were spotted by security personnel. They turned out to be heavily armed militants and ran inside the nearby Punjab Hotel. A police driver, Mohammad Yusuf, was shot dead soon after he drove the local SHO to the spot. Over 100 civilians, who were in Punjab Hotel or adjacent hotels and restaurants, were rescued by 4.30 pm. However, a top official told The Tribune that they were apprehensive of “room intervention”, an operation term used for liquidating militants hiding in a building, as they found and rescued civilians even later.

Gunfires and grenade blasts kept raging intermittently as police and CRPF personnel slowly took control of the situation. Most of the rescued civilians said they were shell-shocked at the unexpected turn of events and had little idea what really was happening. The Lashkar-e-Toiba has mainly been responsible for such attacks, which had begun in Kashmir in 1999, but slowly abated as security forces began killing such squads without suffering much damage. The last such attack in Lal Chowk was in October 2008 when three militants took shelter in New Standard Hotel, near Punjab Hotel, and were killed in an overnight operation.



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