Source Pravda.Ru

Indian troops storm hotel killing Muslim militant to end 24-hour siege in Kashmir

Indian troops stormed a hotel Tuesday killing a Muslim militant holed up inside and captured his comrade to end a 24-hour off-and-on gunbattle in the heart of Kashmir's capital that left four others dead.

Jammu-Kashmir state police chief Gopal Sharma said the captured militant, identified as Ejaz alias Abu Umana, is a native of Faisalabad, Pakistan. He slipped into Indian Kashmir after the Oct. 8 earthquake in the region.

The dramatic events in the Lal Chowk business district of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir, occurred as suspected militants hurled a grenade at a public meeting in Tangmarg town, injuring at least 21 people. Tangmarg is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Srinagar.

Islamic militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan since 1989. The violence has left more than 60,000 people dead.

The fighting in Lal Chowk began on Monday afternoon when at least two militants hurled a grenade at a police compound, killing two civilians and two soldiers.

As security forces returned fire, sending people fleeing in all directions, the militants escaped to the nearby Peak View Hotel and hid there.

The hotel had no guests and the staff escaped from a side exit as police forces laid siege and exchanged gunfire with the militants through the night.

Early Tuesday, a severely injured militant, later identified by police as Ejaz, jumped out of a hotel window but was pounced on by troops hiding behind a wall, said Sharma, the police chief.

He said the militant was armed with a grenade and an AK-47 rifle, and belonged to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba group.

The other militant who was killed when police stormed the hotel has not been identified, said Sharma. There were no other rebels in the hotel, he said.

The police claim that the captured man is a Pakistani will bolster Indian complaints that its neighbor is aiding the militancy in its part of Kashmir. The state has been divided between the two countries since 1948, and both claim it in its entirety.

Monday's gunbattle also injured six people, including a Japanese freelance photographer, Takeshi Sakuragi, 27, who suffered a serious bullet wound to the jaw.

He was out of danger after being operated on in Srinagar. Unable to speak because of the injury, Sakuragi wrote a message for his mother in Japanese and English on an Associated Press reporter's notebook, reports the AP. I.L.

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