SRINAGAR: At least, ten CRPF jawans have been wounded, two of them fatally, in a militant ambush on a force convoy and subsequent gun battle between the two sides outside the Kashmiri town of Pampore, 16-km south of summer capital Srinagar.
A report said that a third CRPF jawan among the injured too has died in hospital. But a spokesman of the CRPF said only two of its men have died. A civilian injured in the initial firing has also succumbed in hospital, raising the death toll to three.
Three gunmen who after targeting the Srinagar-bound convoy of CRPF with gunfire along the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Pampore on Saturday afternoon fled into nearby J&K Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JK EDI) campus have been surrounded by the security forces and the intermittent firing was on at the time of filing this report. Abdul Gani Mir, 48, who worked as a gardener at the campus and was also injured in initial firing, died in hospital later, police and hospital sources said.
While an armed stand-off in now under way, 115 students, faculty members and other staff who were trapped inside the campus have been evacuated to safer places, 25 of them from the main block where the militants have taken up positions.
Officials said that possibly there are no more civilians left within the campus and reinforcements from CRPF have been joined by members of J&K police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group (SoG) to take on holed up militants. A column of Army is on standby. However, officials said that it is the CRPF which is leading the operation against militants and that the final assault against the militants is likely to be launched with first light on Sunday.
Some of the students and faculty members who were earlier trapped inside the main block of the campus after the outbreak of gun battle told reporters that militants asked them to leave as they apparently did not want any harm should come to them.
A police official said that after opening fire at the CRPF convoy, the militant trio fled into nearby JK EDI campus and before taking positions on ground and first floor of the main building tossed a hand grenade towards the CRPF men, causing minor injuries to some of them. This was followed by the exchange of fire between the two sides. Simultaneously efforts were started by police to evacuate the trapped students and faculty members of the Institute, he said.
Superintendant of Police (Awantipore range) Muhammad Irshad told reporters over the phone earlier that the situation was being handled “with utmost care”. He said, “Firing is going on but we are taking utmost care to ensure no harm comes to the civilians trapped inside the campus.”
A student who contacted a reporter friend on his mobile phone had said that there were more than 150 students inside the building when the firing outside it started. “On seeing gunmen rushing in, many students and some staff members sensing trouble fled towards safer locations,” the student had said. However, the computer lab staff was caught unawares and was trapped inside the building. Dozens others were trapped inside the main block, the hostel and other buildings within the campus.
Some of the students and teachers had said over the phone that they fear for their lives as massive firing between the holed up militants and security forces is on.
Former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, took to social networking site Twitter.com to say “Praying this news is wrong. All JKEDI does is train youngsters to look beyond government jobs & become entrepreneurs”.
Meanwhile, pro-militant and pro-azadi protests broke out in neighbouring town of Pampore. Police swung bamboo sticks and fired teargas canisters to break up the protests and foil attempts by groups of youth to walk towards the encounter site.
Jammu and Kashmir police on Thursday issued an advisory to the public asking them to stay away from the sites of encounters between security forces and militants. It said 144 CrPC immediately comes into force at and around encounter sites and asked civilians to stay, at least, two kilometres away from encounter site so that they don’t “fall prey to a stray bullet”.
This came days after two youth including a woman were killed and ten other people were injured when security forces fired live ammunition after sections of protesters while chanting pro-azadi slogans turned violent near an encounter site in the State’s southern district of Pulwama.
As the incident evoked widespread anger across the Valley and the authorities had to impose curfew-like restrictions at several places to hold back protests, Governor N.N. Vohra held a series of meeting with police, Army and other law enforcing authorities to discuss the fallout and issued them strict instruction to exercise restraint while dealing with such situations.
Of late, Kashmir Valley has been witnessing protests by surging crowds around the sites of encounters between security forces and militants. Also, people have in several instances while chanting pro-freedom slogans targeted the security forces with stones in their attempts to create situations which could be seized by holed up militants to escape or, at least, receive encouragement. The massive attendance in militant funerals is also a routine occurrence now, a fact that has got security officials worried....