48-hr gun battle ends at Pampore, 3 militants killed

Bodies of three militants who were holed up inside the EDI building at Pampore in South Kashmir’s district of Pulwama on Monday. (UNI)
Bodies of three militants who were holed up inside the EDI building at Pampore in South Kashmir’s district of Pulwama on Monday. (UNI)

Fayaz Bukhari
PAMPORE (Pulwama), Feb 22: In one of the longest gun battles in recent years, Army this evening killed three militants in the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) building in Pampore area of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district after 48-hour long intense gun fight.
After night long lull, the residents woke up early this morning to the deafening explosions and rattle of gun fire that continued till 4 p.m. After 48 hours, machine guns fell silent and deafening explosions stopped this evening marking the killing of 3 militants, believed to be of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) who entered the EDI building on Saturday.
Sources said that it was a group of LeT militants who carried out the attack and identified them as Abu Saad, Abu Ukasha and Abu Walid. He said that the group had come to South Kashmir last month from North Kashmir’s Handwara forests to carry out Fidayeen attack.  He said that one of the killed militants carried the arms and ammunition inside the EDI building just before the attack on the CRPF convoy on Saturday evening.
Sources said that Army recovered 3 AK-47 rifles, 15 magazines, 200 AK-rounds, 5 UBGL grenades, one UBGL launcher,  three pouches besides war like stores from the dead militants.
The Army used the drone cameras during the operation to keep an eye on the movement of the militants inside the building. These cameras went near the window of the building to take pictures. Sources said that they proved very effective by passing on vital information about the location of the militants to the Army.
Major General Arvind Dutta, General Officer Commanding (GOC), Victor Force, told a press conference here this evening outside the EDI that three militants, all foreigners, were killed in the operation. “They were foreign terrorists and were heavily armed. Their identity is yet to be ascertained and we are taking help from the police to identify them”, he said
The Army officer described the operation successful. “As far this operation is concerned, it is successful operation in which we killed three terrorists and recovered a lot of arms, ammunition and war-like stores,” he said.
The GOC said that the way they carried out the attack it looks they were Fidayeen. “The way they carried the attack, it looks that they were from a suicide squad but it is yet to be ascertained. There is a possibility that they might have carried recce but mostly foreign terrorist don’t carry the recce”, he said.
Major General Dutta said that the Army had devised a strategy for this operation and they went ahead with the plan and neutralized these militants. “The long or short operation is a perception. We have to look at any operation through the challenges we are facing. Just like, this building had lot of rooms. The structure of the building was such that there were many corners. So there were a lot of places to hide. Time was never any constraint for us. We had devised a strategy to clear the different areas gradually and go ahead and ultimately we neutralized them”, he said.
The GOC said that the main concern of the security forces was to evacuate civilians who were trapped in the EDI building. “There were lot of civilians in the building when the terrorists entered it. Our main focus was to evacuate them to safety. We launched a joint operation and used bullet-proof vehicles to evacuate 120 civilians from the building,” he said. He said that the process of sanitizing the building is underway.
The Army officer saluted the bravery of the security forces who laid down their lives in the operation. “I salute these martyrs, the way they displayed their bravery it is commendable. It is the motto of the para-commandos to give sacrifice. They give this sacrifice for the nation, for the Army, for the people of this place to bring prosperity here”, he said.
The GOC said that there was no specific input about this attack and militants had come to provoke the security forces for civilian killings. “There was no specific input that these three terrorists will strike here. They had come with a strategy to inflict maximum damage on us. They targeted the CRPF vehicle first that led to casualties.  Then they entered the building and it was a kind of provocation for the security forces to fire in an area where there were lot of civilians. If Army had not exercised restrain, there could have been huge collateral damage.
The gun battle that ended this evening after 48 hours started on Saturday evening after militants barged into EDI building in Pampore area on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway where scores of youth who were taking training and employees of the EDI were trapped. These militants carried out attack on CRPF outside the building killing two CRPF jawans and injuring 13 others including an Assistant Commandant.
Security forces launched the assault against these militants after rescuing around 120 employees and trainees but a gardener of the EDI, Abdul Gani Mir, was killed in the cross fire when the militants entered the building.
Yesterday, three elite commandos of Army including two officers were killed as commandos tried to storm into the building. They were identified as captain Pawan Kumar of Jind in Haryana, Captain, Tushar Mahajan, 26, of Aadarsh Colony Udhampur, and Lance Naik Om Prakash, 32, a resident of Shimla district in Hamachal Pradesh.
A Defence spokesman said:  “Army today paid a befitting tribute with full military honours to its valiant martyrs Captain Tushar Mahajan and Lance Naik Om Parkash who attained martyrdom yesterday during an operation in Pampore which broke out on Feb 21, 2016.”
“Homage was paid to the valour and sacrifice of the Martyrs in a solemn ceremony held at Badami Bagh Cantonment. Late Captain Tushar Mahajan and Lance Naik Om Prakash were members of the team that had launched an operation on Feb 21, 2016, against the terrorists who ambushed CRPF personnel and took refuge in the JKEDI Building Pampore, South Kashmir and were instrumental in clearing major portion of the multi storeyed building where the terrorists had hidden. In this process, they engaged the terrorists at close quarters and in the ensuing firefight, suffered grievous injuries to which they later succumbed”, the spokesman said.
“Born to a family of educationists from Udhampur, Captain Tushar Mahajan is proudly remembered by his peers for his indomitable spirit and a very high camaraderie quotient.  Commissioned at the young age of 21 years in 2010, passion for adventure of this son of the soil led him to join the elite Special Forces where ‘Balidaan’ is the motto they live and serve by.  He was an expert combat deep sea diver trained for special operations. The martyr is survived by his parents and an elder brother who is pursuing his education abroad”, the spokesman said.
The spokesman said: “The 32 years old Lance Naik Om Prakash was a seasoned commando with 13 years of operational experience.  He had been wounded earlier in 2005 when he had saved a comrade during a counter terrorist operation.  Later, again for his gallantry in similar operations, he was awarded with the “Asadharan Suraksha Seva Praman Patra” by the Prime Minister of India on Aug 15, 2013.  Late Lance Naik Om Prakash, hailed from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh and is survived by his parents, wife and two 7 and 3 years old daughters.”
Lt Gen Satish Dua, Chinar Corps Commander said that the Army and nation salute their sacrifices and added that their sacrifice would not go in vain.  “He saluted their bereaved families and offering his condolences for their loss, he reinforced Army’s commitment towards their honour and wellbeing. As a mark of solidarity DGP, J&K, K Rajendra Kumar and IGP, Kashmir Zone, SJM Gillani also paid tribute to the martyrs during the wreath laying ceremony”, the spokesman said.
A CRPF spokesman said: “On 20th February evening, terrorists attacked CRPF convoy near Pampore. The convoy comprised 25 vehicles, in which 535 CRPF personnel, was coming from Jammu to Srinagar. At around 04:20 pm, the terrorists opened fire from the side of JKEDI building’s Main Gate and our two buses came under initial fire, in which our 11 men got injured including Driver of One Bus. Escort Parties of Convoy vehicles immediately retaliated and fired back on terrorists. CRPF escort troops immediately got down from vehicles and took positions and fired on terrorists very tactfully to avoid any civilian casualties as lot of civilian movement was there at that time. The effective retaliation by CRPF Troops drove the terrorists into the JKEDI Building. The troops of CRPF from nearby camps and deployed on ROP also responded immediately and cordoned-off JKEDI Building.All the escape points were immediately blocked and troops also took their positions in the rear building of JKEDI, as the terrorists managed to enter in the main building of JKEDI. Reinforcements were immediately rushed to the spot.”
“At that time there were so many civilians inside the Main building and other buildings of JKEDI, due to which CRPF restricted any kind of fire on the building. Terrorists were intermittently firing from the building towards the Road and Gates of JKEDI where CRPF Troops took their positions in B.P (Bullet Proof) Vehicles. In this firing, Gardner of JKEDI got injured. Evacuations of civilians was started from other buildings. In the meantime, RR and SOG of J&K Police also reached the spot and Cordon was strengthened. Some civilians were still stranded in the main building in which terrorists entered, hence they were safely evacuated out of complex”, the spokesman said.
“To spot the positions of terrorists in the building, for launching operation to neutralize them, one team of CRPF entered into the building despite the risk of being fired upon by terrorists. The CRPF team reached to the lobby of building and was taking positions, while the terrorists hurled a Grenade targeting team of CRPF. In the grenade blast, four CRPF personnel including two Officers got injured. Despite injuries, the CRPF team moved towards corridor from where the grenade was hurled and fired on terrorists, in which one terrorist got injured. Due to this action, CRPF team forced terrorists to hide and take shelter in some  rooms and injured CRPF personnel were safely evacuated. As soon as CRPF team came out taking injured personnel in B.P Vehicle, terrorists started heavy firing from the building”, the spokesman said.
The spokesman further said: “Sensing the gravity and need of the situation, joint efforts were the need of the hour therefore a joint operation of CRPF, Army and SOG was planned. Teams were briefed about the situation. In the meantime, Para-Forces of Army also joined in. By that time, it became dark and position of terrorists was not clear due to considerably large area of JKEDI building. Hence it was decided to storm the building at the first light. However, intermittent firing was continued. Next morning, Para-Forces of Army stormed the building and gunfight with terrorists continued till afternoon of 22nd February. The operation finally concluded after all three terrorists were gunned down. During entire operation two CRPF men attained martyrdom and 13 CRPF personnel got injured, including Officers. Condition of all injured personnel is stable and 10 are still admitted in Hospital.”
“Due to swift and effective action by CRPF, the civilian casualties were avoided and terrorists also could not flee from the spot after attacking CRPF convoy”, the spokesman said.