Security forces yesterday battled a group of heavily-armed militants holed up inside a government building near here, firing incendiary material that sparked a fire in the complex.
A soldier and a policeman were injured as the militants fired from inside the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Institute (JKEDI) in the fighting that began in the morning and was continuing over 12 hours later.
The 70-room, seven-storey building is located in Pampore on the banks of the river Jhelum and 12km from the Srinagar city centre.
Officials said the building had been surrounded from all sides to prevent the militants from escaping.
Security forces fired rockets and incendiary material due to which the building caught fire.
As the sun went down, security forces made arrangements to light up the complex so that the rebels, whose exact number is not known, do not flee under the cover of darkness.
“All escape routes have been sealed,” said a senior police officer here.
While the rebels are using their ammunition sparingly, the security forces are using massive gunfire to isolate them.
But the security forces are avoiding storming the building in a bid to avoid casualties.
The militants changed their positions constantly to avoid getting killed, one police officer said.
The security forces earlier fired rockets and used light machine guns in a bid to localise the rebels.
The joint operation was launched by the army, the Special Operations Group of the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soon after the militants’ presence was reported.
A soldier was injured when he sustained a gunshot on his foot.
A member of the Special Operations Group of the police was also wounded.
Residents in the area said that the militants entered the institute from the river side and were holed up inside the hostel.
There were some JKEDI employees in the complex at the time of the attack but most said they were not sure how the militants got in.
“We don’t know exactly what happened. We saw smoke coming out of the top floor of the hostel and called the fire brigade and police,” one JKEDI employee said.
“When the security forces arrived, the militants began firing at them and suddenly guns were roaring from all sides,” he added.
The main building of the institute was razed in February when militants captured it and launched a major attack on security forces.
Six people – a civilian, three soldiers and two paramilitary troopers – were killed then before three militants were gunned down.
The institute, situated on the strategic arterial road connecting Jammu and Srinagar, has three buildings – a guest house, a hostel complex and the main office building – on a 3.5-acre land on the Jhelum.
The road on which the institute is located is the lifeline not only for local supplies but is the only all-weather link used by the army to reach the Srinagar-based 15 Corps headquarters.
The area around the building houses a government-owned factory and a highly secured complex of medium and shortwave radio transmitters of Radio Kashmir, Srinagar.
The attack comes amid increased tensions between India and Pakistan after a militant strike on an army base in Uri town that left 19 soldiers dead.