Srinagar: The four-storey concrete building where a 30-hour-long gunbattle ended on Tuesday has become a sort of ruined shrine at Karan Nagar, Srinagar.
The gunbattle, the longest-ever after 2006 in Srinagar, saw the building being hit by numerous Under Barrel Grenades (UBGLs), explosives, and intense firing between the two sides.
On Wednesday, a day after the gunbattle ended, nobody was allowed to go near the building. The CRPF and police officers sealed all the roads leading to the building and said that the bomb disposal squad was at work to defuse the explosives that were used to overpower the militants.
Concertina wires were laid to block roads while red banners cautioned people not to move beyond a point, several metres away from the building.
Curious onlookers clicked pictures from close to the Karan Nagar market, from where the front portion of the multi-storey building was visible. Groups after groups of people could be witnessed coming and going, looking at the building.
The front portion of the building, from where the militants were firing, was peppered with bullets. The intense firing and explosives had laid bare the broken skeleton of bricks. Some window frames also had been shattered. People wondered as to what this building was made of, as it took the brunt of so much explosive and firing for 30 hours.
According to a video apparently shot by the soldiers surrounding the building, which has gone viral on social media, the forces shot thousands of bullets and 250 UBGLs, but could not destroy the building.
“Admit it friend, the building is strong,” a voice apparently of a soldier is heard, speaking to his colleague. “Not a single room has been destroyed in the past two days, though we have used 20,000 bullets and 200-250 UBGLs,” the soldier can be heard saying.
In the video, shot from the top of a building, a UBGL is seen hitting the building, bursting into fire and billows of smoke. It is followed by an intense exchange of gunfire.
The gunbattle between two Lashkar militants and dozens of government forces started on Monday. The CRPF claimed that its sentry spotted suspicious movement in the pre-dawn hours. This was followed by a search operation. Finally, the militants opened fire on the forces, triggering the gunfight which only ended late Tuesday afternoon. Both the militants were killed, along with one CRPF man.
“I had to vacate my house at around 5am Monday,” a lady told Kashmir Reader. She was pleading with CRPF men to let her go home, located close to the building, since she had to fetch medicines. “We were told to go out. We left. We left our house open. We had no idea what followed,” she said.
The paramilitary CRPF and policemen did not allow her to go home. They said the area was being cleared of the explosives.
A shopkeeper at Karan Nagar said that he did not leave his house when the firing started. “We were frozen in our home,” the man, sporting a cropped beard, said. “We were just hearing the loud explosions and firing. It was so scary.”
Residents said they heard the first firing at around 9am Monday. “The place was gripped with panic,” the shopkeeper said. “I think the militants had a lot of ammunition with them. They regularly fired. During the night, too, they continued to fight. The firing would stop for one moment, then start the next moment. It was after almost 15 years that I witnessed such a gunbattle.”
The firing continued for 30 hours, the longest ever in Srinagar after the 2006 fidyaeen attack on the Standard Hotel at Lal Chowk, which lasted for 26 hours and ended up killing six personnel of Special Operations Group of Police, two paramilitary CRPF soldiers, two militants and a civilian. In 2014, a 20-hour-long gunbattle was witnessed in Ahmednagar area of Srinagar.
A police official said that the way the militants fought, it seemed they had come prepared to fight for even longer hours.
“This attack suggests that there might be an increase in militant attacks in Kashmir this year,” the official said. “So far, investigations point out that the attack was planned and the militants had travelled from north Kashmir.”
However, another top police official said that the operation was carefully carried out, that was why it took such a long time.
“In 2006, police and CRPF also lost men,” he said. “This time, we suffered no casualty. We lost only one man, that too in the beginning.”
The official said that the encounter was also prolonged because it was suspended during the night. “As you know, we have to suspend operations as the day ends at five,” he said. “Besides, fidayeen attacks cannot be prevented, but they can be handled. So, we decided to handle it carefully without any collateral damage. I think we did a wonderful job.”
Kashmir’s new Inspector General of Police (IGP), SP Pani, said that investigations were on to ascertain how the militants managed to sneak in.
He refused to divulge details on where the militants had come to Srinagar from. He said, though, that both the militants killed were Pakistanis.
“The militants who were killed in the encounter were Pakistani nationals. I want to compliment the people and the forces for the successful operation,” Pani said.
He said police were cleaning the building where the encounter took place.