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'Firing started, and I thought he was dead'

Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar | October 20, 2003 17:55 IST
Last Updated: October 20, 2003 18:03 IST

As the bullet-ridden signboard of Hack Tack Computer Centre lay among the shards of glass on the top floor of Dr Ali Jan Shopping Complex outside Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed's residence in Srinagar, the fate of seven people trapped inside the centre seemed uncertain.

"I thought it was all over," says Heena Rashid, the lone woman among the seven.

It was an eight-hour trauma for the six trainees and their instructor Heena, who says, "Luckily, the owner of the computer centre, Mohsin, had just stepped inside when we saw shopkeepers downing their shutters."

"I thought something was wrong and then suddenly we heard explosions and gunfire followed by slogans," she adds. "We too pulled down our shutter and took refuge in the middle room. We thought we would die any moment. I almost lost hope as I was the only woman trapped with the six trainees."

They were without food and water for eight hours, "but I was praying and praying for some miracle to happen. Our phone was dead. But suddenly I saw Mohsin talking on his mobile phone. When I saw him using the phone and talking to his father there were tears in my eyes".

The mobile phone was "our only link with the world".

As soon as the authorities got information, efforts began to evacuate them.

She says, "Someone from outside shouted and one the trainees gathered enough courage and came out even as bullets were flying all around. Suddenly the firing stopped and we saw policemen telling us to pull a rope ladder. But we were confusedů"

"A miracle happened and suddenly I saw a long telephone wire lying on the floor. We threw it down and pulled up the ladder. We tied it to a sofa inside the centre and I was told to get down using the ladder. We were not sure whether or not the ladder would work. Suddenly one of the trainees put his life at risk and he came out using the ladder. As he was getting down heavy firing started and I thought he was dead. But then he shouted and one by one we all came out safely. "

The 24-hour-long gunbattle ended on Saturday morning.

The final assault started immediately with the first light and Border Security Force commandoes were pressed into service to flush out the militants.

The commandoes entered the floor and came under heavy fire, resulting in injuries to four troopers. But soon the militants, who had tried to attack the CM's residence, were killed.

The trainees were lucky, says a police officer.

"Sometimes we saw movement inside the training centre that could have prompted our boys to shoot, but we had passed on strict instructions that in no case the troops would fire at unconfirmed militant movement," he says.

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