SRINAGAR: Two young Army captains and a soldier of the elite para-commando force were on Sunday killed on the second day of the operation to wrest control of a multi-storeyed government building from heavily-armed terrorists in Pampore on the outskirts of Srinagar. Following the deaths, the toll in the two-day long gunfight has risen to six as two CRPF men and a civilian were killed on Saturday after the siege began. “The Army, police and CRPF are engaged in the operation to flush out heavily-armed terrorists from the multi-storeyed Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) at Sempora in Pampore area,” defence spokesperson Colonel Joshi told Express.
A group of terrorists, said to number more than three, had stormed the JKEDI office on Saturday.
Joshi said the terrorists were giving a tough fight and firing from automatic rifles and lobbing grenades on the security forces. He said the Army suffered three casualties on Sunday. “Captain Tushar Mahajan, 26, of Udhampur, who was leading men of his elite 9 Para commandos in the operation, sustained grievous injuries. He was evacuated to the Army hospital at Badamibagh, where he succumbed to injuries,” Joshi said. Captain Pawan Kumar (22) of 10 para and Lance Naik Om Prakash (32) of 9 Para, were also killed in the gunfight.
Captain Tushar Mahajan, 26, of Udhampur, who was leading men of his elite 9 Para commandos in the operation against terrorists holed up in a government building near here, Captain Pawan Kumar (22) of 10 para and Lance Naik Om Prakash (32) of 9 Para, were killed in the gunfight with the terrorists on Sunday.
Pawan Kumar, who hails from Jind district in Haryana, had joined the Army three years back. “He had already participated in two successful anti-terrorist operations in which three terrorists were killed,” an Army official said.
Lance Naik Om Prakash from Shimla is survived by his parents, wife and two daughters aged 3 and 7. He was awarded ‘Asadharan Suraksha Seva Praman Patra’ by the Prime Minister on August 15, 2013, for gallantry in counter-terrorist operations.
Police sources said in view of the tough resistance being mounted by the terrorists, the Army used a camera-fitted UAV to identify their location. “The terrorists were continuously changing their positions and since it was difficult to direct fire at them, the camera-fitted UAV was used.” The whole area was rattled by the sound of gunfire and blasts. Amid the blasts and gunfire, smoke and fire were seen in the top floor of the EDI building. Sources said the J&K government has told the security officials to ensure that minimum damage was caused to the building.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said one of the terrorists has been killed. However, CRPF spokesperson Bhuvesh Kumar told Express that the operation was underway and it can’t be confirmed whether the terrorist has been neutralised.
Asked if any of the five floors in the building have been cleared by the security forces so far, he said he can’t share the information but added that security men have entered the building and were engaged in a fierce gunfight with the terrorists.
Sources said the security agencies were investigating how the terrorists managed to bring large quantity of arms and ammunition into the building without detection.
Special DG CRPF S K Bhagat told media representatives that the terrorists were at an advantageous position. “The building is made of concrete and militants are on a higher level. They have an advantage,” he said. He, however, added that the security personnel would soon be able to neutralise all the terrorists.
General Officer Commanding of Srinagar-based 15 Corps Lt Gen Satish Dua paid tributes to the three soldiers killed in gunfight on Sunday. He saluted the courage and selflessness of the soldiers and said their cause will be taken to its logical conclusion.
In view of the continuing gunfight, traffic flow was blocked on the Srinagar-Jammu highway from Pampore to Srinagar and vice versa.
For martyr Pawan Kumar, a Jat and a JNU degree holder, calls of ‘azadi’ or reservation did not matter. “Kisiko reservation chahiye to kisiko azadi. Humein kuchh nahin chahiye bhai. Bas apni razai (Some want reservation and some independence. I don’t want anything, I just want my quilt),” he said in his last FB post.