In second fidayeen strike at EDI, 3 militants occupy hostel block
Red alert in Srinagar as officials treat Pampore encounter ‘diversionary tactics’, fear a bigger strike in summer capital; boat seized; intermittent firing going on; 2 personnel injured
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Oct 10: In the current year’s second fidayeen attack on the magnificent EDI (Entrepreneurship Development Institute) complex, near Pampore on Srinagar-Jammu national highway, three unidentified militants have occupied the eight-storey hostel complex and engaged Police and security forces in a gunfight in close vicinity of Army’s 15 Corps headquarters on Monday.
Officials associated with the operation revealed to STATE TIMES that at least three heavily armed militants, who are believed to have reached EDI premises after crossing river Jhelum from Rakh Shalina side by boat, occupied 7th storey of the Rs 16 crore hostel building around 7.00 a.m. Three junior employees of the adjoining guesthouse, who put up at the hostel building for the night, had walked to the front side, facing the highway, and were closeted with the security when they spotted flames leaping on the top floor.
The employees and the security at the main entrance of the complex called Director EDI Dr Mohammad Ismail Parray by telephone. He immediately rang up SHO Pampore and the fire services. Within minutes, fire tenders arrived in to douse the flames. However, as soon as the fire tenders began taking positions on the premises, the militants opened fire from the seventh floor. Even as nobody was injured, the fire officials withdrew.
Sources said that Army, CRPF, SOG unit of Awantipore District Police, besides a law and order component of Srinagar District Police, rushed to Sempora and laid a tight siege to the whole area. Later, Army seized a boat that is believed to have been used by the militants to cross the river.
Sources said that flames appeared two or three times for the day but each time subsided. Late in the night, the building again caught fire. In exchange of gunfire earlier, one soldier of Army and a constable of SOG Awantipore sustained injuries. Both were evacuated and admitted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital where doctors said that they were stable.
“We have been asked to ensure that there’s minimum possible collateral damage. We are holding the cordon though there was no firing from inside for several hours”, said an official. He said that Army used rocket-launchers and LMGs but failed to find exact location of the holed up militants in the tall building that has 60 rooms and seven concrete masonry floors and an attic.
Sources said that with non-availability of thermal imagers, troops could not find exact location of the holed up militants. They said that a helicopter would carry some thermal cameras from Northern Command headquarters of Udhampur later on Monday night. “This is going to be a tough operation as we are under instruction not to take any casualties and the fully concrete building has 60 rooms and several halls and bathrooms on its seven floors”, said an official.
Officials said that Monday’s fidayeen strike on EDI complex could be a tactics to divert attention of the security forces from the main city where the militants were planning to carry out a major suicide action. That could be possibly on a military or Police installation or a place like Srinagar airport. “Srinagar is on high alert and all incoming and outgoing vehicles are being checked”, said an official.
Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, told STATE TIMES that two to three militants were believed to have reached the EDI after crossing river Jhelum by a boat. He said that Police and security forces had launched an operation and the militants would be sorted out. DGP, besides GoC Victor Force, IGP Kashmir and IGP CRPF Operations supervised the operation for the whole day.
DGP said that Army and Police would try to smoke out the militants with PAVA shells and other tear smoke canisters and try to eliminate them without risking collateral damage. Because of that, the operation could take a longer time.
Director EDI Dr Mohammad Ismail Parray said that entire records, whatever could be saved from the main administrative block in February this year, had been shifted to the hostel block. In a major fidayeen strike, EDI’s administrative block had suffered extensive damage from February 20 to February 22 this year when two CRPF men, one civilian, three militants and four soldiers, including two young Captains of Special Forces, had died in the encounter and a number of Police, CRPF and Army personnel had sustained injuries.
Dr Parray said that the EDI administrative offices were also operating from the hostel block after the February attack. He said that after the February attack he had written to SP Awantipore to augment security at the complex. “I think they had posted 10 to 15 policemen for security but I don’t have full idea of their strength and working”, Dr Parray said. He said that he had been hugely disturbed by the second fidayeen attack as the EDI now had no place to run its offices and accommodate its trainees.
On Twitter, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah posted that the militants were not interests in welfare and capacity building of the Kashmiri youths: “All the EDI ever did was train young Kashmiri boys & girls to stand on their own feet & not seek government jobs. Militants don't like that! No wonder for the 2nd time this year they have attacked the institute. They want young Kashmiris to be subservient & bitter not self-reliant”.
[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]