June 2001 News

Mosque under siege, three militants killed

11 June 2001
The Indian Express
Tariq Bhat

Srinagar: The siege on the Ganai Mohall mosque near Anantnag, where a group of Lashkar-e-Toiba militants have been holed up since yesterday, continued today despite appeals to the militants by villagers to surrender. Three militants and a counter-insurgent are believed to have been killed in the firing that was continuing when reports last came in. Inspector-General of Police Ashok Bhan said the bodies of the militants were thrown out of the mosque premises by their comrades still perched inside. Additional troops of the 7 Rashtriya Rifles (I Sector RR) and police from the Special Operation Group (SOG) Achabal and Shilpora have been deployed at the site. Reports filtering out of the village, comprising 300 houses, suggest that troops were zeroing in on the spot. Senior officers of 1 Sector RR and police including SSP Anantnag, Muneer Khan and Deputy Inspector General, Anantnag, Ashok Gupta, were also monitoring the situation at Shangus. Information on the troops strategy suggest that troops were planning to intensify action as the darkness falls. As the stand-off continued, security forces tightened the siege around the mosque and snapped electricity and water supplies but ruled out storming of the place of worship. However, they said a portion of the bathroom annexe of the shrine was damaged in the exchange of fire. The sources said the militants resorted to indiscriminate firing on the security forces after water and electricity supplies were cut off and in the retaliatory fire two militants are believed to have been killed.They said the civilians who were deputed to motivate the militants to surrender had reported that there were seven militants inside the mosque. The Army has taken several measures, including illuminating the entire area, to prevent the militants’ escape under the cover of darkness, the sources said. This is the second instance in the past 12 days that militants have been holed up in a mosque. On May 30, militants besieged in a mosque at Shopian were offered safe passage by the authorities. The withdrawal of troops from the operation was a called a ‘tactical move’ by security forces. Sources said the militants took shelter at the mosque after Army and SOG personnel launched a joint operation following reports of presence of about 20 LET and Hizbul Mujahideen agents in the area. While most militants escaped after an initial encounter with security forces, a small number — between four and seven — took shelter in the mosque and locked it from inside. They resorted to heavy firing on the approaching troops, the sources said, stopping late last night only to resume in the morning.

 

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