SBI employees thought they would die in the fidayeen attack

Srinagar: Employees of the State Bank of India branch in Dashnami Akhara building here can't believe they are still alive.

They had lost all hope when `fidayeen' (members of a suicide squad) tried to storm the complex housing the holy mace of Lord Shiva, on Wednesday morning. Death stared them in the face for what seemed an eternity.

Fayaz Ahmed, a bank employee, recalled those bone-chilling moments. "The bank was full of customers and we were busy as usual dealing with them. Suddenly, we heard a powerful blast followed by heavy gunfire... and then there were screams all around." "The sound was deafening."

"We thought this [the gun battle] will go on for days. Suddenly, we saw a ray of hope when there was a lull in the firing and we decided to come out. We went to the back gate, which to our ill luck was closed. So, our priority was to get it opened. Somehow, we managed and finally came out in the evening."

Afraid to come out

Parvez Ahmed Ganai, a salesman, was attending to a customer at a footwear showroom in the busy Lal Chowk area when he heard the sound of a blast followed by heavy gunfire.

Ganai was among hundreds of people in Lal Chowk when fidayeen tried to storm the Dashnami Akhara building. "For a moment, I thought the sound of the blast had ruptured my ears. The gunshots were so near that the bullets seemed to be going over my head. It was so close that I thought a bullet was going to hit me."

Ganai has been working at the Rightways footwear for nearly 10 years. He had been in such situations several times in the past. But this time it seemed to be "certain death."

"The blast occurred at 10.55 a.m and till 11.45 we were inside the shop. My customer was shivering and was almost in tears. We agreed to come out only when a senior Jammu and Kashmir police official assured us protection and promised to take us to safety. Our shops were later closed by the security personnel," he added.

"Unfortunate incident"

Mahant Deepinder Giri, the custodian of the holy mace of Lord Shiva, was inside the heavily-guarded Dashnami Akhara building when the fidayeen attack took place.

Talking to UNI over phone from inside the Dashnami Akhara building here, the Mahant said: "It is unfortunate and came as a surprise to all of us. This [the attack] was unexpected and should not have taken place in the holy month of Ramzan."

He said there had been attempts in the past to storm the temple complex from where the holy mace leaves for the Amarnath cave shrine every year. UNI