January 24, 2021
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Militants In Mosque

The stand-off continues as LeT militants refuse to surrender and authorities rule out 'safe passage'.

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Militants In Mosque

A fierce encounter is on in Kashmir's Anantnag district between security forces and some militants belonging to Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Toiba outfit, hiding in Jamia mosque in Shangus. 

One Ikhwani (surrendered militant) working with the security forces was reported to have been killed in the fighting that began around 6 pm (IST) on Sunday while 3 militants have so far been killed by the security forces who tightened their siege and snapped water and power supplies to the place of worship in their bid to make them surrender, as the ultras turned down repeated requests for surrender, official sources in Srinagar said.

Bodies of the three militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit were thrown out of the mosque premises
by their comrades still perched inside, Inspector General of Police Ashok Bhan confirmed to reporters a short while ago in Srinagar.

The army has taken several measures, including illuminating the entire area, to prevent the militants' escape
from the mosque under the cover of darkness, officials said.

Giving details of the incident, the sources said the militants took shelter at the mosque after army and special
operation group of local police launched a joint operation following reports of presence of about 20 LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen in the area. The mosque where the militants have taken refuge is located in Kokernag, 70 kilometres from Srinagar. 

While other militants escaped after an initial encounter with security forces, about five to seven militants took shelter in the mosque and locked it from inside. They resorted to heavy firing on the approaching troops, the sources said.

They stopped firing late Sunday night only to resume it on Monday morning, it was reported. Although the firing was intermittent throughout the day today, hiding militants made no attempt to escape from the besieged mosque, the sources said. The militants were repeatedly asked to surrender and several groups of locals were deputed to motivate them to give up their arms. 

When all efforts to make them surrender proved unsuccessful, army this evening snapped water and power 
supply to the mosque to force the militants to come out. The security forces have laid a three-tier cordon 
around the mosque to foil any attempt by the militants to escape, the sources said.

The Rashtriya Rifles and the Special Operations Group of the police have surrounded the mosque and say they have sealed off the area.The sources ruled out the possibility of storming the mosque and said security forces were exercising maximum restraint to maintain the sanctity of the place of worship, but said a portion of the bathroom annexe of the shrine was damaged in the exchange of fire.

Precautionary measures have been taken to foil any attempt by other militants to rescue the ultras by attacking
the security forces from outside the cordoned off areas, the sources said.

As the stand-off continued with militants refusing to surrender, the security forces have taken over two dozen houses around the mosque in a bid to prevent their escape, they said, while unconfirmed reports mention that Black Cat commandos belonging to NSG have been rushed to Shangus to try and flush out the militants.

LeT spokesman Abu Usma telephoned local news organisations to claim responsibility and alleged that a portion of the mosque was damaged due to rifle grenade attack by the security forces. 

This is the second incident of its kind in south Kashmir within a fortnight. On May 30, three militants of Lashker-e-Toiba remained holed up for nearly 20 hours and were finally provided safe passage to avoid any damage to the mosque. However, LeT had later claimed that two of its activists were holed up in the Shopian mosque and had won their freedom after breaking the cordon.

Stepped-up offensive
In a separate incident, a suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba militants of a suicide squad tonight stormed a police camp in south Kashmir injuring a sub inspector, official sources here said.

They said the militants forced their way into the camp of special task force (STF) at Sohpian in Phulwama district, 52km from Srinagar.

The attack left a sub inspector wounded and set off a fierce encounter that continued till late into the evening, the sources said.

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