Indian troops storm hotel, end siege in central Srinagar

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

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

The gunmen – one a Pakistani and the other an Indian Kashmiri, according to police – 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 Thursday.

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

A militant group, Jamiat-ul-Mujahedin, claimed it was behind the assault, which left five police and four civilians injured. Police pointed the finger at the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

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

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

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

Wednesday’s assault came as Indian Kashmir’s chief minister marked his first year in office by pledging to slash the security force presence in the region if violence continued to decline. —AFP

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