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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Civilian, 2 CRPF men killed in fidayeen attack on highway

3 to 5 LeT militants occupy EDI hqs after attack on CRPF convoy

Commandos storm 5-storey building at midnight; 160 employees, trainees rescued

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Feb 20: In the current year’s first fidayeen strike in Jammu and Kashmir, unidentified gunmen, believed to be the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba cadres, left two CRPF men dead and 13 others injured even as a civilian died in the cross-firing at headquarters of the State-run Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) when a paramilitary convoy on way from Jammu to Srinagar was ambushed on the highway, on outskirts of Srinagar in Kashmir valley, on Saturday.

IGP Kashmir, Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani told STATE TIMES that a group of 3 t0 4 suspected militants of LeT opened fire on a CRPF convoy, on way from Jammu to Srinagar, at 4.15 pm on the highway at EDI Complex, near Sempora Pampore, 8 km short of the summer capital. Even as the convoy guards retaliated, two CRPF men got killed and 10 more sustained injuries.

The militants, belonging to a South Kashmir-based LeT module, rushed into the main building of EDI and occupied the complex without suffering any damage. Units from SOG Awantipora and SOG Srinagar, besides Army, rushed to the spot quickly and launched the evacuation operation as more than 150 employees and trainees got trapped in the three major buildings on the premises. While the trainees and employees were being evacuated from the 8-storey hostel building and a guesthouse, militants hiding in the canteen of the main building on the 5th floor, opened fire.

Two more CRPF men and a 45-year-old EDI gardener Abdul Gani Mir of Gundpora Pulwama sustained injuries. Later, Mir succumbed to injuries at SMHS Hospital. He is survived by three daughters and wife. His brother-in-law had also met similar fate when he died in a rifle grenade attack by militants on Civil Secretariat in Srinagar over a decade back. Mir was also the guardian of the two daughters of his brother-in-law.

IGP said that the Police and security forces maintained a tight cordon around the EDI premises. “Now that we have successfully rescued all the 150-odd civilians, we are planning to launch the decisive assault to eliminate the holed up terrorists”, he said.

CRPF spokesperson Bhavnesh Kumar put the number of the injured at 13. “Two of our men died in the initial attack on the bus while as 9 personnel got injured. Subsequently, during the encounter four more of our men, including an Assistant Commandant, sustained injuries. We are now busy with the operation”, Kumar told STATE TIMES.

Director EDI Dr Mohammad Ismail Parray asserted that all the civilians, including employees and trainees, were evacuated by Police and security forces safely even as a temporarily engaged gardener got killed. He said that he was in Jammu but the employees were constantly in touch with him on telephone and they told him that none of them or the trainees was missing or holed up.

Well-placed sources revealed to STATE TIMES that the heavily armed militants, carrying AK-47 rifles and rucksacks on the back, seized cellphones of six EDI employees who included Arsalan, Wajahat and Feroz. However, they commanded all the 23 holed up employees in the main building to vacate. None of them was harassed or harmed. Two of the militants were Urdu-speaking while as one spoke Kashmiri. They were believed to be three to five in number.

All the militants rushed to the top floor and took positions in the canteen in the attic. They targeted the Police and CRPF men evacuating the civilians from the hostel building in the rear side. It was in this strike that four CRPF men and one civilian sustained injuries. The civilian later died at SMHS Hospital.

While as 23 male and female employees got trapped and were later rescued from the main building, 135 trainees were evacuated in bulletproof vehicles from the 8-storey hostel building and 2-story guesthouse. All of them, including the six whose phones were snatched away by the militants, reached their respective residences.

Supervisor at EDI, Mohammad Maqbool of Tral, told STATE TIMES that he heard a burst of AK-47 gunfire in the hostel building at 4.15 pm. “As soon as we came out, we learned that 4 to 5 militants had attacked a CRPF convoy  and rushed into the main EDI building. We were all evacuated by Police and forces”, he said.

Security forces officers associated with the operation said that they were sure that no civilian was trapped anywhere at 9.00 pm. They said that the 5-storey main building had a basement but none of the militants was believed to be hiding in it. “We are sure that all of them are in the top floor of the building which has around 25 rooms, halls, and library and computer labs.  Special force and SOG commandos are planning to storm the complex at midnight (when this story was being filed) and we are confident to eliminate all the holed up terrorists smoothly”, said an officer.

Sources said that the Government had given strict instructions to the Police and security forces to ensure that the magnificent EDI complex does not catch fire or is not damaged with IED blasts.

On December 9, 2015, two militants had died in a chance encounter with Police and security forces during checking of vehicles at Sempora Crossing, just 200 yards short of EDI complex on the highway.


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