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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

EDI gunfight ends with death of 3 LeT militants

Bodies buried in Uri amid mounting tension in Pulwama district

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, Feb 22: The 48-hour-long gunbattle between militants and security forces concluded with the death of three unidentified militants at headquarters of the State-run Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) at Sempora Pampore, bordering Srinagar and Pulwama district, on Srinagar-Jammu national highway, on Monday.

Two CRPF men and a civilian had died in the attack on Saturday and three of Special Force personnel, including 2 young captains, died on Sunday. Thirteen CRPF personnel have sustained injuries.

On the third day of the encounter, Security forces and Police maintained a sustained assault on the three militants holed up on the 4th storey and attic of the EDI complex. For most of the time, they remained hidden in the concrete-walled elevator machine room in the attic and the firing from security forces did not cause them any considerable damage until the commandos advanced with the room-to-room search and got them cornered above the 4th storey.

Sources associated with the operation told STATE TIMES that all three of the militants were killed in the final assault around 4.30 pm. Their bodies, along with three AK-47 rifles, and a quantity of other arms and ammunition, were recovered and subsequently despatched to Uri for burial in apprehension of the trouble mounting towards the conclusion of the operation in the vast Pampore belt.

After the authorities learned that the sympathisers and overground supporters of the militants were mobilising people with playing of Pakistani and militant epic songs on the public address system of the village mosques, curfew was imposed in maximum of Pulwama district and parts of Srinagar district in Zewan-Khrew area. Still, some anti-India, pro-Pakistan and pro-Azadi demonstrations took place in Pampore, Sempora and some other villages.

Reports said that over a dozen demonstrators and at least four Policemen sustained injuries in the clashes. According to these reports, attempts were made to arrange a massive demonstration outside EDI so as to disrupt the Army operation and facilitate the militants’ escape. Police and CRPF foiled such attempts.

Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, told STATE TIMES that efforts to identify the slain militants failed as nobody recognised them by their pictures and outfits. “Since no individual, no family in the Valley claimed the bodies, we have reasons to believe that all three of them were foreign terrorists, most probably Pakistani nationals”, DGP said. He said that it appeared to be “a well-recceed and well-planned fidayeen attack as the militants had attacked the CRPF convoy on Saturday well on the national highway and thereafter taken shelter in the huge EDI complex wherefrom they could have held a vantage position, kept the forces engaged in a longer gunfight and caused maximum possible damage”.

“It was a completely exposed spot and there was no chance of escaping. Done at Sempora crossing, where two LeT militants died in an encounter on December 8 last year, all the three militants could have escaped. Their selection of EDI spot makes it clear that that they had no intention of going back”, DGP said. According to him, this group of LeT militants had possibly infiltrated into Kashmir in the month of November or December last year.

Asked if any technical evidence had been seized to ascertain the militants’ original place, route of infiltration, movement in the Valley and their contacts, DGP said that the search operation would take another 24 hours to finish. Earlier head of Army’s Victor Force, Maj Gen Arvind Dutta, maintained that the slain militants were Pakistani nationals and members of their outfit’s suicide squad.

Chairman of Pakistan-based militant conglomerate United Jihad Council and ‘Supreme Commander’ of Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin praised the militants for giving “a tough fight” to the Indian forces. In a statement, he also appreciated the support of the local people to the militants. UJC announced a top ‘gallantry award’ for the slain militants.

It was the first major fidayeen strike in Kashmir after the militants attacked a Police installation in Sheeri area of Baramulla during the Assembly elections in October-November 2014. Last year, militants attempted a fidayeen strike on a military installation at Tanghdar in Kupwara district but they were gunned down before entering the main encampment.

[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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