Militants kill five in Jammu, gun battle continues (Third Lead)

May 11th, 2008 - 5:52 pm ICT by admin  

Samba (Jammu and Kashmir), May 11 (IANS) Five people, including a woman hostage and a photojournalist, were killed when militants struck in Jammu early Sunday. An intense gun battle is underway between the militants, holed up in a house, and security forces in the Samba sector. The militant attack in the Jammu plains is the first since 2002.

According to the police, militants entered the house of Hoshiar Singh in Kali Mandi in Samba, 45 km from Jammu, and opened fire, killing him and his wife Shashi Bala. Their daughter Bindu and Singh’s mother-in-law were injured in the firing.

Police and army units, alerted by villagers, ran towards the area and engaged the militants in a gun battle. A soldier and a photojournalist, Ashok Sodhi, also died in the exchange of fire. Two others are also said to be injured.

The militants, after being chased by security personnel, hid in a house belonging to Suresh Singh. A woman and two children were trapped inside the house. In the afternoon, the militants killed the woman and threw her body out of the house.

The area looks akin to a battle scene, with heavy firing on between the two sides.

“The gun battle has intensified as militants are lobbing grenades and firing. The troops also are retaliating,” a police official said. More army reinforcements have been rushed to the spot, he added.

The injured have been taken to the Government Medical College Hospital, Jammu, the official added.

Inspector General of Police (Jammu zone) K. Rajendra told IANS that the militants could be a group that had crossed into Samba sector from Pakistan Thursday night.

“They might have been lying low as there were ambushes laid in the area. But villagers must have spotted them this morning and they must have opened fire then.”

Security forces suspect that the infiltration bid Thursday, recovery of a cache of arms and ammunition in the area Saturday and Sunday’s attack might be an attempt to disrupt the Amarnath Yatra that begins June 18.

“We have inputs of more militants coming from across the border in a bid to escalate violence and disrupt the Amarnath pilgrimage and the assembly elections scheduled for later this year,” said Maj. Gen. D. Choudhary, general officer commanding of 26 Division that is responsible for army deployment in the border areas.

Thousands of Hindus travel to Jammu via Samba on their onward journey to Kashmir to visit the Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath at this time of the year. There have been attempts in the past to target devotees.

“The militants could not have intruded without the knowledge of Pakistani Rangers,” a police official said.

The Border Security Force (BSF), which guards the 187-km international border, had claimed that it had foiled the infiltration bid Thursday night and that over a dozen militants had retreated to Pakistan after firing 1,000 rounds from their weapons.

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