Three die in Kashmir gunbattle

November 12, 2007

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SRINAGAR, Nov 11: Two suspected Kashmiri militants and one soldier died as scores of government troops ended a four-day hotel siege in occupied Kashmir on Sunday, officials said.

Two paramilitary soldiers and two policemen were also wounded in the fighting in Sopore, a town 50 kilometres north of Srinagar, said B. Srinivasan, a senior police official.

One Kashmiri fighter was killed on Saturday night while an Indian paramilitary soldier and another Kashmiri rebel died in the fighting on Sunday before the standoff ended, Srinivasan said.

The siege -- punctuated by sporadic automatic gunfire and grenade blasts -- began when suspected Kashmiri rebels opened fire on a paramilitary base last Thursday and then ran inside a nearby hotel in Sopore, said Inspector General M. S. Gupta of the Central Reserve Police Force.

Indian forces besieged the hotel but were unable to dislodge the gunmen for four days.

At least two buildings were destroyed and the hotel complex was also extensively damaged during the siege.

A man who gave his name as Abdullah Gaznavi and identified himself as spokesman for the rebel group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba told local newspapers on Saturday that the attack was carried out by Lashkar militants.

Gaznavi was quoted as saying two other Kashmiri rebels who were in the hotel managed to escape. The rebel group could not be contacted on Sunday..—AP