Terror returns to Srinagar

Two cops killed; gun battle rages; pro-Pak group owns up attack

Terror returns to Srinagar

The last such attack in the city was in November 2007 in which two militants were killed and three soldiers wounded.

In the attack on Wednesday, 20 others, including three women and a media person, were also injured when they were caught in the exchange of fire and grenades that the terrorists used. The counter-terrorism operation was continuing at the time of going to the press.

Lal Chowk, the shopping hub in the centre of Srinagar, turned into a war zone when two heavily armed militants, believed to be from a suicide squad, attacked a paramilitary picket when the market was bustling with hundreds of shoppers and routine commuters. Jamiat-ul- Mujahideen, a pro-Pakistan militant group, has owned up responsibility for the attack. A Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen spokesman said three militants carried out the attack and warned of more strikes.

The attack comes barely a week after Jammu and Kashmir director-general of police Kuldeep Khoda said  that there was a 25 per cent drop in terrorist violence.
Panic gripped Lal Chowk, Residency Road, Regal Chowk, Badshah Chowk, Court Road and other adjoining areas when two gunmen opened fire and lobbed grenades at a hotel. Amid bursts of gun fire, civilians were seen ducking and running to safer places when militants sprayed gunfire at the security forces.

A local policeman and a CRPF jawan were killed in the surprise attack which took place around 2:10 pm. As the paramilitary jawans retaliated, the militants took shelter in the Punjab Hotel. Shopkeepers pulled down their shutters and vehicular movement was stopped as a fierce gun battle ensued. People trapped in the hotel cried for help as the place turned into a war zone. While most of them managed to escape, scores were rescued by the police and security forces.

The counter-terrorism response of the security forces was delayed as groups of people, moving in the direction of the troubled spot, raised separatist and pro-militancy slogans. The police had to fire tear gas shells and resort to a cane charge to disperse the demonstrators. Inspector General of Police Farooq Ahmad said the operation against the terrorists was delayed since hundreds of civilians were trapped in and around the hotel where the militants were holed up.

According to Ahmad,  the area would be cordoned off  through out Wednesday. The final assault  is likely to be launched during on Thursday morning.

As the afternoon and evening wore on, with no sign of an end to the operation, intermittent gun fire could still be heard in the vicinity. The securitymen attempted to enter the hotel to neutralise the terrorists but had to back off each time the terrorists returned heavy fire.

“The hotel building will have to be stormed by commandos if the militants refuse to surrender,” said a paramilitary officer.

About the possible targets of the suicide attackers, police sources said it could have been the CRPF battalion headquarters located near the Amira Kadal bridge, High Court and civil secretariat.

The sources said an intelligence input received on Tuesday suggested that Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists were planning to carry out a suicide attack here. Following the input, the authorities sent messages on mobile phones to the public at large and officials concerned asking them to be on alert.

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