Fri, Jan 08, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Commandos storm hotel in Kashmir

AFP AND REUTERS , SRINAGAR, INDIA

Commandos stormed a hotel in Indian Kashmir yesterday where two militants had been holed up for nearly 24 hours, killing the gunmen and bringing an end to the siege.

The four-story hotel in Srinagar, the summer capital of the volatile Himalayan region, was on fire before police announced both the pro-Pakistan extremists had been killed in a morning assault by security forces.

The gunmen — one a Pakistani and the other an Indian Kashmiri, police said — had taken refuge in the hotel on Wednesday after throwing grenades and opening fire in Srinagar’s main market area.

One police officer was killed in the attack and one bystander succumbed to his injuries yesterday. Police said some 400 people had to be rescued from nearby buildings and the hotel.

The two rebels fought for about 22 hours, firing automatic rifles and lobbing grenades.

“The operation as far as we are concerned is over,” Kuldeep Khuda, the state police chief, told reporters at the scene.

Overnight, police had fired teargas to disperse scores of pro-militant Kashmiri youths who threw stones at security forces, chanting “Kashmiri Mujahedeen, we are with you” and “We want freedom.”

Khuda said the police cleared the building from the top floor before encountering and killing the first militant early yesterday.

“The other terrorist tried to set the building on fire ... and he tried to make his escape but he was shot down,” Khuda said.

A pro-Pakistan group, Jamiat-ul-Mujahedin, claimed it was behind the assault, which left five police and four civilians injured. Police pointed the finger at Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which India blames for attacks in 2008 that killed 166 people in Mumbai including at two luxury hotels.

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