J&K Mosque Siege: Women Rescued
26 June 2004
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Two militants holed up inside a mosque at Littar, in southern Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, trapping about 36 devotees, mostly women, in the mosque and adjacent Sufi shrine, were shot dead by troops on Saturday after they fled to a private house nearby. A soldier was also killed and an Army major wounded in the firefight. The men and women trapped in the mosque and Sufi shrine were rescued. The killing of militants holed up inside a place of worship is not a unique incident in the 15-year-old militancy in the state, but the authorities were worried about the fact that 36 devotees, mostly women, had been trapped in the mosque and Sufi shrine as the security forces laid siege to it on learning about the presence of militants. Locals told the police that the militants had come to pay obeisance at the mausoleum of the Sufi saint. Reports said the holed up militants, whose exact number was not initially known, were first told to come out of the shrine to avoid an armed confrontation with the security forces. However, while the effort was still on, the militants allowed the civilians to walk out of the mosque and the shrine. The authorities said the trapped civilians were in fact rescued by the troops. After being rescued, all of them were segregated and their identities established to prevent militants from escaping in the guise of civilians, they added. Police sources said the militants mingled with the crowd and then rushed inside a private house nearby. The troops fired their machine guns and assault rifles and, amidst the heavy firing, a group of sharpshooters and combat personnel stormed the house in a prompt strong strike that led to the killing of the two militants. Defence sources here said Rashtriya Rifles personnel and the local police had earlier on Saturday sealed Littar and three neighbouring villages in the area from where the police had recovered the bodies of Indian Railways Construction Corporation engineer Sudhir Kumar Pundeer and his brother Sanjay Kumar as part of on going drive to catch those responsible for the murders.