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Two LeT Terrorists Killed In 22-Hour Encounter

PTI 07 Jan 2010, 16:06:51 IST

Security forces on Thursday stormed a hotel in busy Lal Chowk area killing two LeT terrorists including a Pakistani, ending a 22-hour fierce gunbattle that also left a policeman and a civilian dead.

At least 11 persons including two CRPF jawans were injured in the encounter, the first this year, which paralysed life in the heart of the city.

"The encounter is over. Two terrorists of Lashker-e-Taiba including a Pakistani have been killed," Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda told reporters at the scene of the gunbattle.

The Pakistani terrorist was identified by security agencies through wireless intercepts as Qari while the other was named as Usman from Sopore.

Security forces had a tough time dousing the fire that erupted in Hotel Panjab even as the terrorists lobbed grenades and opened indiscriminate firing at them.

While a CRPF jawan was killed yesterday in the firing, an injured civilan identified as Mohammad Akbar Lone succumbed to his wounds today.

Khoda said one militant was killed when the operation was resumed at 0700 hrs this morning after it was suspended last night. The other militant was shot dead around noon.

The DGP said concerted efforts were being made by Pakistani terrorists to hit targets in J and K and in other parts of the country. "There is desperation in infiltration, there is desperation in carrying out such attacks".

Khoda said the militants probably had some other target to attack, "but because of the encounter, they rushed into the hotel and took positions there to open fire at the police".

The ultras first lobbed grenades and opened fire at a CRPF picket outside Palladium Cinema in Lal Chowk before taking shelter inside the hotel.

Inspector General of CRPF N C Asthana said the militants always had the element of surprise when they carry out such attacks. The security forces were fully alert and determined to foil such attempts.

Describing the Lal Chowk operation as a success, he said "We handled the situation extremely professionally. We did not cause any collateral damage at all. We could evacuate all the civilians".

The IGP said the operation to flush out the militants from the hotel was prolonged as hundreds of civilians were inside shops and buildings in Lal Chowk.

The hotel caught fire this morning as the security forces inched closer to the militants holed up on the top floor of the five-storeyed building.

"The militants set the hotel ablaze to divert the attention of the security forces and even targeted the fire brigade vehicles to prevent them from dousing it," he said.

"We moved cautiously to ensure all the trapped civilians are rescued and we succeeded in our mission before eliminating the terrorists," he said. PTI