March 2000 News

Militants holed up inside J&K mosque

26 March 2000
Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

Jammu: TROOPS LAID siege to a mosque in Chak Dudhipora village (Northwestern Kashmir) where a group of heavily armed militants had taken cover last evening. Latest reports received here indicated that the fierce exchange of fire between the fugitives and the security forces had yet to die down, nearly 18 hours after it began. Two militants were shot dead while attempting to escape from the mosque this afternoon. Major Ravinder Singh and a soldier too were killed in the initial stages of the exchange of fire. ''There are at least three more militants are still hiding in the mosque,'' defence sources told The Hindustan Times. Sources said that despite grave provocation, the troops that have encircled the mosque are ''exercising utmost restraint'' and hope to exhaust the militants of ammunition in this war of attrition. The events leading to the militants'' presence in the mosque are unclear. One version has it that they sought refuge there after attacking the troops. Another version has it that the fugitives were in the mosque in the first instance and had challenged the troops patrolling the area. It is almost six years since Kashmiri militants have used a place of worship in an attempt to evade security forces. In May 1995, Charar-e-Sharief, one of the most revered shrines of Kashmiri Muslims, was the epicentre of a long-drawn standoff between militants and security forces. It was eventually razed. Hazratbal mosque was the venue of a similar standoff that lasted for over a month (October- November 1993). UNI adds that another set of militants attacked a police station at Pattan with rockets and automatic weapons in the northern district of Baramulla late last night. The police station was partially damaged but no one was injured. Security forces also killed two militants during a search operation in Kanihama-Sathoo in central Kashmir last evening and another in Budnar in Baramulla. One grenade launcher and 16 grenades were recovered from the dead men. Militants also shot at two persons in Srinagar yesterday. A blast rocked Sogam in the border district of Kupwara but no casualties were reported. In another incident, unidentified gunmen kidnapped two persons in south Kashmir last evening.


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