Srinagar: Two suspected militants were killed and three para commandos were injured in an encounter on Sunday afternoon at Pantha Chowk, on the outskirts of Srinagar.
Earlier on Saturday, the encounter started when the two suspected militants had fired a volley of bullets at a CRPF vehicle in front of a bank ATM, near the main gate of the Delhi Public School at Pantha Chowk. A sub-inspector, Sahib Shukla, was killed in the gunbattle that continued for almost two days.
Zulfikar Hassan, IG (operations) of CRPF, said his officer Shukla took bullets but had also retaliated. “He always led any operation from the front.” The encounter brought vehicles to a standstill on the highway for many hours on both Saturday and Sunday, a day before Eid begins in the Valley.
According to eyewitnesses, on Saturday, the attackers in police uniforms had fired indiscriminately at the CRPF vehicle before entering the Delhi Public School campus where they took refuge. It took some time for the security forces to be certain of where the militants were hiding.
After the firing, a large contingent of police, CRPF and army personnel had arrived in the area — a highly fortified zone — a few hundred metres away from the Indian Army's 15 Corps headquarters. During the search operation, a school staff informed the forces that they had seen the militants enter one of the school buildings.
The school was immediately cordoned off but no contact was established with the suspects. After a night-long siege, sounds of firing and shelling were heard in the army offensive to flush out the militants. By afternoon, the militants were finally cornered and killed by the forces' intermittent firing at the school building.
The 17-hour long gunbattle shows the militants are fast taking the battle from south Kashmir to capital Srinagar. Police officials said, it was a well-planned strategy to prolong the encounter by taking refuge inside the school, which has a sprawling campus with more than 400 rooms in over five buildings.
“It seemed the intention was to take refuge in a high-rise like the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) complex, where militants took refuge twice, to extend the encounter and grab maximum attention,” a senior police officer at the encounter site said.
The authorities had imposed restrictions under Section 144 CrPc on Saturday night from Ram Munshibagh to the Sempora stretch of the national highway as a precautionary measure to avoid protests near the encounter site.
The fresh attack in Srinagar just adds to intelligence reports of militants attempting a major attack in the capital city but the strict security arrangements on the national highway have prevented it. Given the rise in the number of active militants, such an attack must not be ruled out in the immediate future.
In October 2016, before the militants launched the second attack in a year, from Sempora, militants had been trying to enter Srinagar but were forced to retreat after noticing checking of vehicles at the entry and exit points.
However, they did manage to gain entry into Jammu and Kashmir EDI in Sempora twice, but by rowing a boat across the Jhelum river. Both the attacks proved costly for the state as well as the security forces.
Intelligence agencies have been long been apprehensive of hit and run style attacks by militants on the National Highway between Pampore to Panth Chowk. The highway helps militants to strike and disappear easily and also grab attention by disrupting vehicular movement.
"It is impossible to keep vigil all along the 302-kilometre-long highway from Srinagar to Jammu. We have identified vulnerable stretches where there is a 24x7 vigil to thwart any possible militant attack. It was due to our alert troopers that the militants were killed," a senior army official said.
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Updated Date: Jun 25, 2017 20:01:21 IST