At least one security forces personnel was killed and seven people -- including three security men and a journalist -- were injured in a suicide attack launched by unknown militants on police in Lal Chowk in the heart of the city.
Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, a radical outfit, on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the terror attack in Lal Chowk here, saying the strike was intended to convey the message that militancy was not yet over in Kashmir.
The militants appeared in Lal Chowk and hurled grenades at the police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel who are deployed on routine duty.
Soon after the attack the security forces cordoned off the area and militants took shelter in a local hotel.
A gunfight is on, and so far one security personnel was killed and seven others -- including three security men and a photo journalist working with News 24 news channel -- have been injured.
Scores of people are reportedly held up in the hotel and other adjoining buildings. But DIG Central Kashmir H. K. lohia told The Hindu that many civilains have been evacuated from Lower Court premises and other buildings.
"There are some people held up in the hotel in which militants have barged in, but the exact number is not known" he said, adding that the first priority was to avoid any collateral damage.
Panic gripped the area and life came to a halt with shops open and vehicles standing as they were.
This is the first such attack in 2010.
Women, children evacuated
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 said.
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.