Srinagar: The standoff in Pampore is turning out to be the bloodiest of the year so far in Kashmir, as the holed up militants continued to engage the government forces for the second consecutive day on Sunday, killing three commandos, two of them captain rank officers.
The CRPF claimed that one of the three militants has been killed.
A senior officer at the encounter site said that the government forces have cleared three of the four floors of the building and the militants have been pushed to a portion of a floor.
The encounter started Saturday evening after the militants barged into the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) building, after attacking a CRPF bus, killing two troopers and injuring 15 others.
The militants have the advantage because the concrete building is situated between the right bank of River Jhelum and the Srinagar-Jammu Highway. The traffic on the highway was diverted after the encounter triggered off.
Sources said the government forces called in paratroopers to taken on the holed-up militants who had the advantage of occupying positions in scores of concrete rooms and halls of the building that became functional in 2009.
Informed sources said that past midnight, some commandos scaled up walls of the building only to receive a volley of fire from the militants.
Captain Pawan Kumar, who was leading the team of 10 Para commandos, was hit by bullets. He was immediately airlifted to 92 Base Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. The 22-year-old officer belonged to Jind district of Haryana.
Local residents and journalists covering the encounter told Kashmir Reader that the top floor of the building was in flames in the afternoon and dense smoke was billowing out.
Helicopters made several sorties from the Army Aviation Base at Shariefabad, while camera-fitted Unmanned Aerial Vehicles hovered over the besieged building to track down militants.
In the afternoon, a 32-year-old paratrooper, Lance Naik Om Prakash was hit by bullets. He was also evacuated to hospital but could not be saved.
At around 5 pm, the government forces suffered another major casualty when Captain of the elite 9-Para commandos Tushar Gupta was killed. Gupta is a resident of Adarsh Colony in Udhampur district.
“Two CRPF jawans died yesterday and three army personnel were killed today,” Bavesh told Kashmir Reader.
He, however, said that one of the holed up militants has been killed and the body retrieved.
“The operation to kill other militants is on but nothing can be said about how much time it will take,” the spokesman told Kashmir Reader.
Though top army and police officials refused to speak on the operation, however, an army official who is a part of the operation said that the militants seem to highly trained and motivated.
“It seems that they been imparted all important training courses for carrying out the attack. They don’t fire continuously but after taking long breaks,” he said.
The encounter started on Saturday afternoon when the militants, suspected to be Lashkar-e-Toiba cadre, ambushed a CRPF convoy at Sempora, 10 kilometers from Srinagar, on the periphery of Pampore town, killing two CRPF head constables.
Immediately after the assault, militants rushed into EDI building and took positions there. More than a hundred employees and prospective entrepreneurs were inside the building when the stand-off began.
All civilians except a gardener Abdul Gani Mir were evacuated from the encounter site, mostly in armoured vehicles.
Mir received bullets in his abdomen and was taken to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Hundreds of people participated in his funeral on Sunday.