Fierce gunfight on in Kashmir
30 May 2001
Srinagar: An army personnel and a Special Police Officer (SPO) were killed and another SPO critically injured when a group of militants, holed up in a mosque, opened fire on a joint party of police and Army at Shopian in Pulwama district of South Kashmir on Wednesday, official sources said. The exchange of fire between the two sides was going on when reports last poured in. Sources said the clash began at 5 am when a joint party of Special Operations Group (SOG) comprising the local police and Army moved to village Khadwara in Shopian area on Wednesday morning following specific information about the militants" presence there. The militants retaliated by opening fire on security forces killing Army personnel Aijaz Ahmad and SPO Rasheed Malik. Another SPO Manna Kale was critically injured. Despite repeated warnings by the Army, which along with police encircled the mosque, to surrender, the militants continued firing for most part of the day at the troops before calling a halt in the evening, the sources said The militants were believed to be activists of Pakistan-based Lashkar- e-Toiba outfit and three in number, they said. The security forces made a vain bid to persuade the militants to surrender by sending a team of local residents inside the mosque after the firing stopped. The sources said the security personnel were exercising maximum restraint and had tightened the cordon around the mosque to foil any attempt by the militants to escape. The militants want to buy time so that they can make an attempt to escape the security dragnet during the night taking advantage of the darkness, the sources said. Security forces have not stormed the mosque respecting religious sentiments of the people, they said. But the siege of mosque has been further tightened by Army by sending fresh reinforcement from nearby areas, the sources said. They said wireless intercepts between the holed up militants and their associates outside the cordoned area reveal that the ultras include a senior commander of the outfit. They said wireless intercepts also reveal that one of the foreign militant, said to be an Afghan national, has either been killed or injured in the exchange of fire. However, it was yet to be confirmed as troops used less force to avoid damage to the mosque.