Security forces were battling militants holed up in a government building in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pampore, the latest in a string of attacks in the border state in the last few weeks.
An army spokesperson said an unconfirmed number of militants entered the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute complex near saffron-rich town of Pampore, 12km from here, in the morning.
“There was an engagement in the morning. One of our jawans is injured as well,’’ the spokesman in Srinagar said. Unconfirmed reports put the number of rebels at two or three.
This is the second time that the institute, which trains and finances young men and women to be entrepreneurs, housed in three-building complex has been targeted this year.
A three-day fierce gunfight in late February left seven people, including three army commandos, dead.
Monday’s gun battle, too, showed signs of a long-drawn fight. Militants holed up on the sixth and seventh floors of the hostel building had used beds and almirahs as barricades against the army, sources said. A part of the building appeared damaged by fire.
Only a few cooks were in the building and they were evacuated in the morning. The ongoing unrest in the Valley, which is in its fourth month, continues to keep students away from the institute.
At 6.30am, three gunshots were heard and the militants could have taken a boat to enter the EDI complex situated on the banks of river Jhelum, eyewitnesses said.
The militants fired a few shots in the air and reportedly set fire to a part of the EDI building. Initially the commotion was dismissed as a fire incident by police but a gunfight erupted the moment security forces reached the complex to douse the fire.
The militants, said experts, had an advantage as the building had many small rooms, making it easy for them to shift positions and hard for the forces to track them.
There has been a spurt in militant activity in the state as well as along the line of control following the September 18 strike on an Uri army camp that left 19 soldiers dead.
India responded to the assault by launching surgical strikes on militant camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on September 29.
“Every day it’s either militants snatching guns or then militants staging attacks. How can the centre be so blasé about where J&K is headed??” former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.
Traffic was suspended on the highway that runs close to the institute and connects Jammu to Srinagar. The road is the only all-weather link for supplies.
India blames Pakistan for the Valley unrest, which has entered the fourth month and left 90 people dead, and for militant violence.
The ties between the two sides have worsened after the September 29 cross-LoC strikes, with rhetoric on Kashmir getting shriller and the guns booming on the de facto border.
(With agency inputs)