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India: Mosque Crowds Cheer on ‘Holy Warriors’ in Three-Day Police Siege

Over the weekend, militants in the volatile Kashmir region ambushed an Indian military convoy, then holed up in the local headquarters of the government’s Entrepreneurship Development Institute, on the outskirts of Srinagar, India.

A three-day standoff ended on Monday after all three of the militants camped inside the EDI building were killed. Three army commandos were also reportedly killed during the fighting, along with a civilian.

According to the Times of Indiathere was considerable local support for the militants during the encounter, with mosques across the region blasting praise for the “mujahid” or “holy warriors” through loudspeakers. These messages were mixed with slogans supporting Pakistan in its decades-long contest with India for control of the Kashmir region.

The Times of India also reports hundreds of young people attempting to “physically prevent the security forces from launching combat operation against the terrorists.” Police and paramilitary forces controlled the crowd with tear gas, while “angry youths pelted cops with stones.”

“The entire Pulwama district, including the separatist hotbed of Tral, observed a complete shutdown on Monday in ‘solidarity’ with the holed-up terrorists, stated posters put up by the separatists,” the TOI writes.

The Indian Express pins responsibility for the militant attack on Lashker-e-Taiba, an Islamist terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda, officially denounced by the Pakistani government, as well as the United States and United Nations.

According to the BBC’s account of the siege, a hundred students and staff were hastily evacuated from the EDI building after the militants entered. Witnesses said the gunmen told civilians in the large complex to “save themselves.” At some point during the siege, the top floor of the main building caught fire.

The Indian Express says security forces were uncertain of how many militants they faced, and whether all civilians had been safely cleared from the complex, delaying their final assault. The civilian casualty was reportedly a gardner working at the EDI complex who was killed in the crossfire.

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