Over 100 people evacuated from Lal Chowk buildings
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Last Updated: Wednesday, January 06, 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.


First Published: Wednesday, January 06, 2010, 18:13

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