Security forces launched a fresh offensive on Tuesday to flush out militants holed up inside a government building in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pampore town as the operation entered the second day.
Loud explosions were heard till 1am in the night and again at 5:30am on Tuesday as security forces stepped up the counter-attack against an unconfirmed number of militants, who entered the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) complex on Monday.
An Indian Army official said the area around the JKEDI premises has been cordoned off and exchange of fire was going on.
It appears the army is attacking the multistoried complex with heavy arms, hoping to either kill the militants or flush them out of the building.
On Monday, security forces lit up the complex on Monday to stop the militants from fleeing under the cover of darkness. A police officer said on Monday the militants were changing their positions constantly and security forces had earlier fired rockets and used light machine guns to localise them.
This is the second time the JKEDI complex, which trains and finances young men and women to be entrepreneurs, has been attacked this year. A three-day encounter in February left seven people, including three army commandos, dead.
Sources said on Monday that militants were holed up on the sixth and seventh floors of the hostel building and used furniture as barricades against the army. A part of the building appeared to be damaged by the fire during the gunfight on Monday.
The institute, situated on a strategic arterial road connecting Jammu and Srinagar, has three buildings -- a guest house, a hostel complex and the main office building -- on a 3.5-acre land on the Jhelum. The militants could have entered the complex from the riverside but that can only be ascertained once the operation is over.
After entering the complex, the militants set on fire a few mattresses inside a hostel room to attract the attention of the police and other security forces, who arrived within minutes of the smoke emanating from the building.
There were no students in the building when the attack began as classes remain suspended due to the ongoing unrest, which is in its fourth month, in the Kashmir valley. A few cooks, who were inside the building, were evacuated.
One soldier was injured in the encounter, the latest in a string of attacks in the border state in the last few weeks.
Militants have stepped up the attack in the state after the army announced that it had conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The army’s nearly five-hour-long operation was launched in the wake of then September 18 terror strike on an Uri army camp that left 19 soldiers dead.
India blames Pakistan for the Valley unrest that has left 90 people dead and for the militant violence.
(With input from agencies)