The 50-hour stand-off with terrorists in Pampore has spurred the Jammu and Kashmir police to review the security of vulnerable government buildings in Srinagar, especially unguarded multi-storeyed structures located at strategic places.
Though DGP K Rajendra admitted to Hindustan Times that the security strategy in the region needed to be reworked, he said the police force was bound by certain practical concerns. “In the initial days of the militancy, all government-run buildings were protected. Buildings of strategic importance are protected even now, but we can’t secure each and every government building as the number is too large,’’ he said.
Even in Pathankot, Pakistani militants had used multi-storey buildings as a fortified bunker against security forces. Prior to that, on January 7, 2010, a 20-hour-long encounter had ensued after terrorists entered a hotel in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk area. The longest such encounter in Kashmir took place at its capital city’s BSNL office in November 2003, with the gunbattle extending to as long as three days.
The Pampore siege began on Saturday evening, when militants took refuge in the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) complex after attacking a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) bus on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Army officials said the militants were holed up in the main building, which has about 40 to 50 rooms. The operation was prolonged because the building had to be cleared room to room.
“The sprawling 15-acre EDI campus and the multi-storey buildings therein provided militants with an effective vantage point, allowing them to prolong the encounter and cause maximum damage to security forces,’’ said an official source.
Rajendra said that though the militants had deliberately chosen the EDI building, investigators were yet to ascertain whether it was a Fidayeen attack (suicide mission).
Six people – two army captains, two CRPF troopers, a Para 9 Special Force soldier and a civilian – were initially killed in the encounter. The 48-hour-long Pampore encounter finally ended on Monday afternoon, with security forces eliminating all the three militants.
The state police chief said the militants appeared to be foreigners. “Although infiltration has been bought down to a trickle, it does happen occasionally. These militants may have infiltrated some time back,” he said.
Rajendra said that though no militant organisation claimed responsibility for the attack, an initial probe indicated has that the Lashkar-e-Taiba may be involved. “Nobody had owned up to the Pathankot encounter either…” he added.
Meanwhile, the United Jihad Council (UJC) – a conglomerate of militant organisations – conferred the ‘Hilal-e-Shujhat’ bravery award posthumously on the three militants killed in Pampore. Disclosing that UJC chief Syed Salahuddin conveyed a special meeting to offer tributes to the three, group spokesperson Syed Sadaqat Hussain told local news agency CNS that it was high time India read the writing on the wall.
“Attacks on India’s security forces will be intensified, and our men will continue to target its establishments,” he said.