Al-Mansooreen militants broke the Ramzan calm in Srinagar on Wednesday by mounting a suicide attack on a CRPF formation at Akhara Building in Budshah Chowk. The CRPF, however, foiled the militants’ attempt to storm the camp, barricaded them inside a hotel opposite the Akhara Building and engaged them in a gunfight.
Two policemen and a civilian are reported to have died in the clash. The exchange of fire was still on.
Inspector General of CRPF S.K. Singh said two militants were holed up in the hotel while over 50 civilians, most of them shopkeepers and customers, had been evacuated from the area. “Some people have shops on the upper floors of the buildings adjacent to the hotel and are still inside their shops,” he said.
Singh confirmed the death of one J&K police personnel and said three other policemen, one from the CRPF, had been injured.
Claiming responsibility for the attack, Al-Mansooreen said three of its cadres were involved in the attack. “The CRPF camp is the target and three activists are on the mission,” a spokesman for the outfit told newspaper offices over telephone.
Mohammad Shafi, a shopkeeper in the nearby Auqaf market and an eyewitness to the attack, said the three militants had appeared on the scene at 11.20 a.m. “One fired at the CRPF bunker at the main gate of Akhara Building. The other two made an apparent attempt to storm the building. But after CRPF guards started firing, they sneaked into Hotel New Standard,” he said.
Shafi said he and other shopkeepers had had to duck for cover as bullets flew from both sides. “I had to crawl to safety, leaving my shop open,” he said.
Sources said that inside the hotel, the militants fired at two J&K police personnel who were on duty guarding a secretariat employee. One of them, Shoukat Ahmad, is said to have died on the spot. The fate of another policeman, assistant sub-inspector Mohammad Yousuf, is not known.