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November 4, 1999
Encounter ends, army kills 2 militants
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
Army troops on Thursday blasted the cantonment building in which militants were hiding with mortars, killing two.
Searches are on for the third militant, who formed part of the group that attacked the 15 Corps headquarters on Wednesday.
Till late evening, the troops had recovered only one body from the debris. Smoke was still issuing from the blasted building after heavy overnight rains.
Chief of Staff Major General Mukherjee said the troops killed the Srinagar district chief of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Abu Talha. "One more militant has been killed and we are searching the debris to recover his body. The search for the third is on," he said.
Journalists were shown Abu Talha's body. Tension prevailed in the Badami Bagh locality. Shops were closed and the road deserted. Army troops have been deployed in strength on the main road and passing vehicles are being searched. The security around the headquarters has been further tightened.
Briefing journalists about Wednesday's attack wherein the defence ministry's public relations officer Major P Purushottam was killed, Major General Mukherjee said that three militants alighted from a bus and started firing. They forced their entry into the cantonment building. The guards at the building tried to engage the militants, but two of them were shot.
The major general said that two militants gained access to the PRO's office by scaling the wall. They opened fire, killing Major Purushottam, Subedar B D Sharma, Naik P K Maharana and Sepoy M R Haq, the PRO's driver.
A senior army officer told this correspondent that militants fired on the public relations personnel at close range. Major Purshottam was killed while he was trying to telephone for help.
Major General Mukherjee said that a Quick Reaction Team reached the PRO office and engaged the militants. The militants then entered a nearby building. Soon reinforcements from 13 Garhwal also reached the spot. The building was encircled. The militants were asked to surrender. However, they continued to fire. The troops then rained bullets and mortars shells on the building, razing it to ground.
Four personnel who were seriously injured in the fighting have been identified as S K Shukla. Havaldar Kulwant Singh, Sepoy Sunil Singh and Naik C R Bhai.
Major Gen Mukherjee described the attack as an 'attack on the press'. The militants, he said, were under tremendous pressure from security forces and were undertaking such acts 'to draw the media attention.'
The general said the militants were part of a Lashkar suicide squad. "We will deal with them firmly."
Meanwhile, a general strike crippled normal life in Kashmir today. It was called by the Dukhtarani Milat, a women's separatist group, to protest against alleged atrocities against women.
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