Over 100 people evacuated from Lal Chowk buildings

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 - 18:13

Srinagar: Over 100 people, including women
and children, who were trapped inside shops and other
buildings near the scene of a gunbattle between militants and
Security forces at Lal Chowk here have been evacuated.

Joint teams of police and CRPF personnel are engaged
in the rescue operation and so far over 100 civilians trapped
inside shops and other buildings have been evacuated from
Court road, Pladium chowk, Koker Bazar and adjoining areas to
safer places, a police officer told PTI.

Militants struck Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of the
city, at around 2.15 pm by exploding grenades and opening
indiscriminate firing, triggering panic among the people.

While most shopkeepers fled to safety along with
pedestrians leaving their establishments open, some of the
people took shelter inside the open shops and buildings.

"Besides neutralising the militants holed up inside a
hotel, our priority is to ensure safety of the civilians," the
officer said adding efforts are also on to clear the civilians
present in the hotel where the militants are positioned and
firing on the forces.

Meanwhile, police fired a few tear gas shells to chase
away a crowd at nearby Abi Guzar locality.

The police resorted to teargas shelling after the
crowd started raising slogans in support of militants, sources
said.

They said a mob also resorted to stone-pelting at
Maisuma prompting the police to fire tear gas and use batons
to restore law and order.

Among those evacuated was the Editor of Urdu Daily
`Srinagar News`, Mehrajuddin, who said the militants first
lobbed a grenade on a CRPF bunker located at the now defunct
Palladium Cinema in Lal Chowk.

"I and my staff were in the office located in one of the
buildings adjacent to Punjab Hotel where the militants are
believed to be held up, when we heard a deafening sound of a
grenade blast followed by retaliatory fire opened by the CRPF
which shattered the window panes of the commercial buildings
in the area," Mehrajuddin told PTI after being evacuated by
the police.

The scribe said he and his reporter Gulzar Ahmad had a
narrow escape as some bullets landed in their office.

"We lay down on the ground to save ourselves from the
firing. We heaved a sigh of relief when police knocked on the
door of the office and rescued us from the building," he said.

Ghulam Mohammad Beg (64), who was also evacuated from a
shop in the area, said he managed to enter it as soon as the
grenade blast took place.

"There were already 15 people who had taken shelter in
the shop. One of them was hit on his arm. We remained in the
shop for over two hours till the police came and allowed us to
go," he said.

Naseema from the from old city said she was shopping in
the area when she got held up. "I do not know what happened as
we remained inside the shop till police came and rescued us,"
she said.

-PTI



First Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 - 18:13

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