Fidayeen Lay Siege To Srinagar Hotel6 January 2010
Times of India
Srinagar: Two heavily armed terrorists - members of suicide squad (fidayeen) - lobbed grenades, shot dead a constable, then attacked a vehicle that came to evacuate him before entering into a hotel, triggering a fierce gunbattle - the first in over two years - in Srinagar’s business hub of Lal Chowk on Wednesday. Initial reports indicated that the suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists wanted to enter the nearby CRPF camp. But, when they were stopped during a routine check near Pladium in the heart of Lal Chowk, they began firing and hurling grenades. They then entered the nearby Punjab Hotel, took positions and continued firing at the security forces comprising J&K police and CRPF. Soon, armoured vehicles carrying police reinforcements surrounded the hotel. Shopkeepers downed shutters and passers-by ran helter-skelter. The firing continued when reports last came in. SMHS hospital medical superintendent, Dr Wasim Qureshi, said nine injured civilians and a critically wounded CRPF jawan were admitted into Srinagar’s main hospital. ‘‘Four civilians had bullet injuries while others were discharged after first aid.’’ Srinagar SSP Riyaz Bedar told TOI from the site of encounter that the terrorists were holed-up in the hotel’s second floor. ‘‘We’re ensuring the safety of civilians who were in the hotel’s restaurant at the time of the attack,’’ he said. ‘‘Around hundred people, including children and women, were evacuated.’’ A cameraman from a TV channel was also injured. Bedar, who headed the operation, said J&K police’s special operation group (SOG) was given the task to either neutralize the terrorists or catch them alive without causing any collateral damage. While sources in security agencies said the terrorists belonged to LeT, a little known outfit, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the attack in a faxed statement to local media offices. They said it appeared that the terrorists entered inside the hotel as per the design to target security personnel from strategic point ensuring more casualties in firings. Had they not been fidayeens who came with an intention of fight to finish, they would have easily slipped away using nearby congested lanes and bye-lanes, they added. Stating that there has been no change in the jihadi objective of making India bleed, the security expert and former additional secretary in R&AW B Raman said: ‘‘The Srinagar incident clearly indicates that the terrorists still have capacity to launch massive attack at will.’’ He told the TOI that jihadis’ masters in Pakistan, through such incidents, wanted to mark their presence, sending a message that the area (J&K) was not at all peaceful.