The fierce gunbattle on the outskirts of Srinagar ended today with Army's elite Special Forces killing all the three terrorists, suspected to be Pakistanis belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in a 48-hour operation that also left six securitymen and a civilian dead.
The heavily-armed terrorists, apparently a "suicide squad", were holed up in a multi-storey government building of Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) in Pampore, along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, since Saturday afternoon.
"The encounter has ended and three militants who had taken refuge inside the building have been killed," a police official said.
"We have killed three militants of whom we had the information," Major General Arvind Dutta, General Officer Commanding of Victor Force, told reporters.
He said the identity of the slain terrorists is being ascertained but added they appeared to be foreigners.
To a question, he said by saying "foreigners", he meant they had come from "across the border", hinting at Pakistan.
In Delhi, CRPF Director General Prakash Mishra said the attack "appears to be" the handiwork of Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) terror outfit.
Maj Gen Dutta said 'war-like' stores, including large quantity of arms and ammunition were recovered from the site.
A combing operation was underway to sanitise the building which has 44 rooms plus lobbies, washrooms and a restaurant on the top floor, he said.
The operation, which began on Saturday evening, saw five security force personnel including two Captains of elite commando units laying down their lives while battling the terrorists, suspected to be of foreign origin.
A civilian was killed in the crossfire between the two sides while 120 civilians were evacuated safely.
As the operation entered the third day today, the Special Forces of the army maximised the force, using mortar shells to flush out the terrorists, the officials said.
Maj Gen Dutta said the building appeared to be a pre-determined target where they rushed into after attacking a CRPF convoy on the highway.
"They were carrying a large quantity of arms and ammunition... They were seen running into the building with big bagpacks," the army officer said.
"Inputs as of now suggest they were foreign terrorists," Maj Gen Dutta said, adding it needs to be verified.
"The way the attack happened, it seems that they belonged to a suicide squad," he said.
He said it was possible that the militants may have conducted a recce of the campus before the attack.
"It cannot be said as yet, but it is possible that they might have conducted a recce. Mostly, the foreign terrorists do not conduct such type of recces. But we cannot rule out the possibility," he said.
The army officer, however, admitted that there was no specific intelligence about the attack.
Responding to questions over the operation taking so long, he said the security forces took time to neutralize the terrorists as there were many challenges because of many hiding places in the campus.
"We have to conduct every operation after keeping in kind various challenges. This building had many rooms and many corners and it had many hiding places.
"We did not have the paucity of time. We wanted to clear the building stage-wise and neutralize the terrorists in the end," he said.
As the security forces mounted an assault on the building yesterday, they met with stiff resistance from the ultras who are holding vantage points inside the building.
"The terrorists had a huge opportunity to hide inside the big complex....They had an advantage. They could see our movements," the GOC said.
He said the CRPF initially made an attempt to enter the building immediately after their convoy was targeted but the terrorists threw grenades and fired at them, forcing them to withdraw. It is then that the Army stepped in, Gen Dutta said.
Two CRPF jawans and a civilian were killed and nine other jawans injured when militants opened fire on CRPF convoy on Saturday afternoon.
During the intense gunfight, the top floor of the building caught fire which forced the ultras to shift towards one side of the complex where they were nuetralised, the police official said.