Three militants holed up inside a house near Jammu were killed in a daylong fierce gun battle with security forces on Wednesday but the fate of seven hostages including four children was not immediately known, officials said. Three civilians and an army officer were killed in the operation.
"The operation in Chinore is over as the third militant has been killed around 11.30 pm," senior superintendent of police (Jammu) Manohar Singh told IANS.
"However, the fate of the hostages is not known," he added after the nearly 17-hour operation.
Among the hostages were children in the age group of two to nine. The youngest is Vipin Kumar, 2, while the other three are Kajal, 4, Ishant, 6 and Sheetal, 9. Their anxious father Billa Ram remained waiting outside the house for the safe release of his children and wife.
The police said three terrorists had crossed into Jammu and Kashmir from the Kanachak sector of the border with Pakistan on Tuesday morning. They were intercepted at the police check post of Chinore, about 20 km north from the centre of Jammu, Wednesday morning.
The three militants, dressed in police uniforms and carrying AK-47 assault rifles, shot dead a junior commissioned officer and then hijacked a three-wheeler. They then fired indiscriminately, killing Shabeet Hussain, a milkman, and motorcyclist Naseeb Singh before killing the three-wheeler driver, Vijay Kumar, said the police.
The guerrillas then entered the house in Chinore. Police and army personnel cordoned off the area and were engaged in a gun battle with the militants.
By the evening the army sealed the whole of Chinore area and also put on the floodlights at the house, said an army officer. "This will give some confidence to the hostages inside the house that there are people still keeping watch over the militant who is holding them hostage," the officer had said.
"The area is fully sealed off by the soldiers," the officer said.
However, towards the late evening, the security forces were unwilling to flush out the sole remaining militant, fearing for the safety of the hostages. "We would like to tire out the militant rather than storm the house," said an army officer.
Earlier in the day, security forces rescued three children and a woman from among the hostages.
After confirming the killing of two militants, Maj. Gen Darshan Lal Choudhary told reporters in the evening: "Our final assault will have to wait till either the inmates have been released by the militants or we are able to rescue them."
Grenade explosions and gun shots were heard in the area as the single-storey building was perforated with bullet marks. But the firing died down throughout the afternoon. It was resumed late in the evening during which the second militant was killed.
"A high alert has been sounded in Jammu due to the terrorist infiltration from across the border," said Inspector General of Police (Jammu Zone) K Rajendra.
This is the second major gun battle in Jammu region in less than three and a half months.
Six people were killed in Samba town, 40 km southwest of Jammu May 11.
According to defence sources, militants had infiltrated May 8 from across the international border in Samba sector before they surfaced May 11 morning and killed civilians and soldiers. Three militants were killed in that battle.