Pampore encounter over; two militants killed
A 56-hour gunbattle between militants and security forces in Pampore ended on Wednesday with the killing of two ultras who were holed up in a government building on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.
“We have recovered bodies of two militants and the search operation at the EDI building in Pampore has been completed,” an army official said.
The militants had struck the imposing Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) building in February this year as well. Five security force personnel including two young army officers and a civilian employee of the Institute and three militants were killed in that operation which lasted 48 hours.
Adopting a cautious approach, the security forces pounded the EDI building since Monday to flush out the militants suspected to be of Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT).
“We have taken our time. This is one building and it has 60 rooms. It has a ground floor, six floors and one attic. 60 rooms have as many bathrooms. That is the reason it takes time to clear each and every room,” Major General Ashok Narula said, adding the clearing operation had started on Wednesday morning. “We took our time to eliminate the terrorists to avoid collateral damage,” he told reporters at the end of the operation.
Regretting the targeting of the building by militants for the second time in the year, the army officer said, “EDI is a centre of excellence and a lot of our young brethren get employment. And it is very sad that for the second time they have come and an encounter has happened.”
While one militant was killed on Tuesday evening, the other militant was shot dead by the security forces on Wednesday, another official said.
The operation, which started on Monday, has reduced the multi-storey building to a skeleton after many of its walls were blown up.
The ultras could have entered the complex from the riverside but it is yet to be ascertained, an official said.
After getting inside the complex, the militants set afire few mattresses inside a hostel room to attract the attention of the police and other security forces, which arrived within minutes of the smoke emanating from the building.
General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Victor Force Major General Ashok Narula said army cordoned off the area on Monday around 7 AM after getting information about the presence of militants.
“We cordoned off the area after there was firing from the building. We brought in more forces and started our operation,” he said.
Flanked by Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, S J M Geelani, he said the operation was very tedious and security forces followed the drill effectively to eliminate the holed up militants.
“It was a very lengthy operation because EDI is a very huge building. We did not want to have any collateral damage because there were chances of civilians being inside. All those people were taken out,” he said.
Major General Narula said there was a drill for every thing and “we cannot do it in haste”.
“The day before yesterday we started the operation and yesterday we kept working on this. Then today morning we started the clearing operation. At this moment, there are two people who have been eliminated and the two weapons have been recovered,” he said.
IGP said the aim of the militants to occupy the building was two-pronged--to cause maximum causalities to security forces and to draw attention as they knew the operation will take time.
“Our people are alert. We are prepared for any eventuality,” he said, adding, “the deployment that has to be done in terms of defensive posturing that is being done and also in terms of pro-active operations, they would also be conducted.”
In the initial exchange of firing, one army soldier was injured.