Srinagar, Oct 21 (IANS) The over 10-hour-long gunfight between three guerrillas of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) outfit and security forces in a village on the outskirts of Srinagar ended Thursday evening with two militants being shot dead and the third caught alive, police said.
'Two militants including a commander of the Jaish outfit have been killed in the Malura encounter that ended here this evening. The house which the militants had been using as a fortified bunker was damaged in the heavy exchange of gunfire,' a senior police office told IANS here.
The third militant, who had jumped out of the besieged house and taken shelter in an adjacent dwelling, was later caught by police. He was identified as a resident of the state.
The bodies of the two killed militants, both foreign nationals, were recovered from the debris, police said, adding although the exchange of gunfire had ended, searches were still on in the village.
According to eye-witnesses, security forces used explosives and mortar shells to demolish the house in which the guerrillas had been hiding.
The police officer said that the operation against the holed-up militants had to be ended before night fell in the area.
'We had to proceed very cautiously in the densely populated village where all civilians around the encounter site had to be evacuated before the final assault on the militants,' he said.
'Their identities (of the killed militants) are being confirmed, but both belong to Jaish and one of them was a commander of the outfit. The group had plans to enter Srinagar city for carrying out some major militant action, but the arrest of their guide by the police led the security forces to the exact spot where they had been hiding,' police here said.
Early Thursday morning, troops of Rashtriya Rifles and Special Operation Group (SOG) of the local police had zeroed in on a house in Malura village, 16 km from city centre Lal Chowk, on specific information about a group of Jaish guerrillas there.
Village elders had earlier been used to persuade the guerrillas to surrender, but the militants refused and started firing at the surrounding security forces.
This is the first gunfight this year on the outskirts of Srinagar indicating the separatist guerrillas plans to establish themselves again in Srinagar city, intelligence sources said here.
The Omar Abdullah coalition government has seriously been exploring the possibility of removing the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Srinagar district. However, once the AFSPA is revoked from any area in the state after withdrawal of the Disturbed Areas Act there, the army cannot be used to carry out operations against the guerrillas in such areas.
'The army would in that case lose the special powers needed to effectively fight the guerrillas,' said an officer of the army-staffed counter-insurgency Rashtriya Rifles.