Terror holds Jammu family hostage in 17-hr gunbattle

27 August 2008
The Indian Express

Jammu: After weeks of being on the boil over the Amarnath land issue, Jammu was gripped with fear today after at least three militants, suspected to have sneaked in from Pakistan yesterday, killed four persons, including an Army junior commissioned officer, and held eight persons — four children, their mother and grandmother and two men — hostage for over 17 hours in a house on the outskirts of the city. The men were the children’s tutor and a neighbour. The gunbattle between security forces and the militants, which began around 6 am in Chinnore — barely 20 km from the international border — ended around 11 pm tonight when the last of the three militants, according to Jammu SSP Manohar Singh, was shot dead. According to a jawan who went into the house around midnight, the children were said to be safe while one “male” was dead and another man had bullet injuries in the leg. Both women were safe — the grandmother escaped in the morning and the mother came out of the house after the encounter. Expressing serious concern over the infiltration and the militant attack, the Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti cancelled its rally at the Parade Ground. The Samiti said that they didn’t want to put lives of people in danger. “Considering national interest as top priority and responding to an appeal from security agencies, the Samiti decided to cancel the Sangarsh rally,” said its convenor Leela Karan Sharma. The militants, suspected to be among those who had infiltrated into India under cover fire provided by Pakistani forces yesterday, reached the city outskirts in an auto-rickshaw being driven by Dharam Pal, a local resident. It is alleged they were being led by a “guide” on a motorcycle. Around 5 am, they reached Mishriwalla and opened fire on Armymen deployed on the road as part of the combing operation after the infiltration. When the troops retaliated, the militants made the autorickshaw turn towards Domana. The “guide” on the motorcycle fell down and was captured by the troops. Near the Domana police station, the militants opened fire on an Army check post, killing a JCO, V V Parkashan of 9 Madras Rifles. They then sped away and gunned down a constable, Shahid, who was riding a motorcycle near Chinnore. Autorickshaw driver Dharam Pal managed to slip away and the militants then stopped another autorickshaw headed for Chinnore. It was being driven by Army Havaldar Vijay Kumar — he was going home in his father’s autorickshaw. Once they reached Chinnore Chowk, the militants gunned down Vijay Kumar and also shot dead an ex-serviceman, Naseeb Singh. They then crossed a maize field and entered the house of Billu Ram Bhagat. Bhagat was not at home — he was taken to hospital after being bitten by a snake the previous night — but the militants took hostage his mother, wife and four children. The children’s tutor, Ashok Kumar, was also taken hostage along with a neighbour. As securitymen ringed the house, there was heavy exchange of fire. Around 8 am, a militant tried to flee but was gunned down. Throughout the day, firing was on with breaks in between. The second militant was shot dead around 5.30 pm and the third around 11 pm. SINCE DAWN 4.30 am Three militants, who sneaked in from Pak, take auto from Kanachak for Jammu city. Led by a 'guide' on a motorcycle 5 am Fire at Armymen at Mishriwalla, speed away. 'Guide' falls, held by troops 5.10 am Kill JCO at Army check post near Domana 5.35 am Gun down constable near Chinnore 5.45 am Auto-driver escapes, militants stop another auto being driven by an Army Havildar (he was taking father's auto home) 5.50 am Militants reach Chinnore Chowk, gun down Havildar, ex-servicemen 5.55 am Militants cross maize field, enter a house, take hostages 6.10 am Securitymen reach the spot, come under fire. Gunbattle begins 8 am Militant shot trying to flee 8.05 am A woman taken hostage escapes. Exchange of fire throughout the day 7.55 pm Second militant killed 1100 pm Third militant killed, one woman hostage emerges