After 22-hr Ops, Troops Clear Lal Chowk7 January 2010
Times of India
Srinagar: Jammu & Kashmir police commandos fought their way into a Srinagar hotel at the crack of dawn on Thursday, killing two heavily-armed terrorists who took positions there after lobbing grenades and shooting at security forces on Wednesday. Two people, including a constable, were killed, and 10 others injured in the protracted gunbattle - the first such attack on Srinagar’s business hub of Lal Chowk in more than three years. Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital sources said a civilian, Mohammed Akbar Lone, died because of his wounds on Thursday. Punjab Hotel, where the two suspected LeT terrorists had holed up, was in flames when police announced the end of the 22-hour siege. Hours after the encounter ended, soldiers were still searching the area for leftover explosives. Home ministry sources in New Delhi said the terror duo was in constant touch with their Pakistani handlers during the siege. ‘‘Their communication with their handlers revealed that more attacks are in offing,’’ a source said. ‘‘The shifting focus of security forces on Jammu resulted in the attack.’’ J&K police chief Kuldeep Khoda said the hotel’s top floor was first cleared by commandos, who then nailed the first terrorist. ‘‘The other terrorist tried to set the building on afire,’’ he said. ‘‘He was looking to escape but was shot down.’’ Khoda said the attack was planned in Pakistan and LeT was instructed not to own it up. ‘‘That’s why Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack,’’ he said. He identified the two terrorists as Abu Qari, a Pakistani national, and Manzoor Ahmad, from Sopore. Earlier, darkness forced suspension of the operation on Wednesday evening. ‘‘The operation resumed at 7pm, but the terrorists kept firing at security forces through out the night,’’ Khoda said. Joginder Singh, owner of another hotel in Lal Chowk, said the assault was a scary experience. ‘‘Heavy firing was on and my staff and I were unable to come out,’’ he said. ‘‘We thought we could die any moment.’’ He said a stray bullet hit one of his employees. Cops said the two terrorists were planning a suicide attack, which was thwarted when police prevented them from approaching a CRPF camp. The two were stopped during a routine check. The ultras panicked when stopped and began firing indiscriminately besides hurling three grenades. They then took positions and fired at the security forces from the hotel.