A gun-battle between holed-up militants and Indian security forces at a government-run facility in Kashmir's saffron-rich town of Pampore has entered the second day. Explosions and gunshots have been reported, but it is still unclear how many extremists are inside the building.
At least three security personnel have been injured in the fighting so far, while the militant casualties are not known yet. On Tuesday (11 October) morning, rockets and heavy automatic gunfire were used by the Indian security forces. The militants have taken nobody hostage as activities at the institute remain suspended due to the three-month-long curfew. Intermittent gunshots were heard in the night as well. The area has been cordoned off after the Indian forces laid siege around the building.
It all started when an unknown number of assailants, thought to be locally groomed, stormed the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Institute in Pampore, located 15 kms from Srinagar, the state capital. They entered the establishment at around 6.30 am on Monday (10 October). The seven-storey building's main structure is a 10,000-ft facility which houses a restaurant as well. There are close to about 70 rooms in the building making the security forces' task of flushing out the militants difficult.
"The combat parties are not entering the building to avoid the casualties. They want the militants' ammunition to finish which will subsequently lead to [the] end of the gunfight. Militants are heavily-armed and they fire intermittently. They can keep combat parties engaged for hours together," a senior police official told the local newspaper Greater Kashmir. Personnel from the army's various wings including special forces, paramilitary and counter-insurgency are at the spot to press on with the operation.
The same government-run institution, which is meant to coach and provide financial support to young entrepreneurs in Kashmir, was targeted by militants in February as well, claiming the lives of five soldiers and three attackers. The institute is also strategically located on an arterial road connecting Jammu province and Srinagar.
Indian forces have been kept on high alert across the restive state of Kashmir, which borders Pakistan, in the past few weeks as the security situation has come under severe strain. This is the fourth major attack on an Indian government-backed facility. The initial targets were those run by the army.
The Kashmir valley plunged into chaos shortly after a local separatist leader, Burhan Wani, was killed by Indian forces on 8 July. Since then, the state has been witnessing cross-border attacks. India also claims it carried out 'surgical strikes' in Pakistani territory to take down Islamist terrorists' positions.