The police and the CRPF killed two militants and ended the 22-hour encounter at Lal Chowk here on Thursday. A civilian, injured along with seven others on Wednesday, died in hospital, taking the death toll to four. A policeman was the other victim.

The encounter started at 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, when the police intercepted two militants, who opened fire and took shelter at Punjab Hotel. The police evacuated hundreds of civilians trapped in the area. The stand-off continued all though the night, when the operation was suspended. But the cordon was tightened to prevent the militants from escaping.

The exchange of fire resumed at 7 a.m. on Thursday, with the police launching the final assault. In the gunfight that lasted several hours, the militants, Abu Qari, a foreigner, and Manzoor Ahmad, who hailed from Sopore, were killed.

The hotel building caught fire as explosives were used to blow it up.

Director-General of Police Kuldip Khoda said the target of the militants intercepted by a police party was not known. Two outfits, Jamiatul Mujahideen and Harkatul Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the attack, but Mr. Khoda said it was the handiwork of a Lashkar-e-Taiba module. Life at Lal Chowk and in adjoining areas remained affected for the second day, as the police sealed them off. Shops, business establishments and offices remained closed.

Office damaged

The office of Srinagar News, a newspaper, was damaged, and a local photo journalist Aman Farooq sustained a splinter injury. The police detained a reporter of a national news channel for a while after he received a phone call from Pakistan about the encounter.

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