The three-day gunbattle between security forces and militants holed up inside a government building at Sempora in Pampore on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway ended this afternoon with two militants being shot dead. The operation had started Monday morning when two militants took refuge in the seven-storey building of the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI). The Army said that there were indications that the militants belonged to the Lashkar-e-Toiba.
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Officials privy to details of the operation said that one militant was killed Tuesday evening after he came out of the building and was hit by a volley of bullets, while his accomplice was gunned down in the early hours of Wednesday after he was targeted with RPG fire.
After the operation began, the Army and the police entered the building for the first time using ladders on Wednesday. After combing all floors and rooms of the complex, the operation was declared over. Bodies of two slain militants were also recovered from the encounter site. Security forces are now looking for unexploded shells while sanitising the complex.
The complex was also attacked in February this year. Three foreign militants were killed during that encounter that lasted for 48 hours, while the Army lost three Para commandos, including an officer. But this time, the Army and the Special Operations Group of the J&K Police took extra precautions to avoid casualties.
Speaking about the operation, GOC Victor Force, Major General Ashok Narula, said: “It was a huge building and we didn’t want any collateral damage. Day before yesterday morning we started, on Tuesday we kept working on this and today morning time we started clearing of the whole operation. Two people were eliminated and two weapons were recovered,” he said, adding that the militants could be from the LeT.
“We have taken our time, this is one building and it has got a ground floor, six other floors and one attic. It has 60 rooms and 60 bathrooms also, that is the reason it took time to clear each and every room,” he said adding that because of too many rooms and too many floors it was a “tedious process.”
When asked why the Army didn’t go inside the building earlier, he said this was the normal drill.
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Syed Javaid Mujtaba Geelani, said the militants had plans to target the security forces coming in for the operation. “They choose this building so that they could draw attention,” said Geelani, adding that after the Baramulla encounter “we had information that people will try to sneak into the city or carry out these kind of attacks on the highway. Our people were alert and that is the reason they couldn’t cause any damage”.
In the three-day operation, the security forces also used rockets and IEDs. On Tuesday, surveillance drones were used to track the movements of the militants.
The EDI complex is less than five kilometres from the Badami Bagh cantonment, headquarters of the Army XV Corps in Srinagar. There has been a high alert in Srinagar after militants tried to storm the battalion headquarters of Rashtriya Rifles at Langate and Baramulla in north Kashmir. A top police officer said that there could be more attacks in the coming days.