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Mediators become hostages in standoff

Srinagar Oct. 20: Stepped-up violence in the Valley claimed two lives and injured nearly 60 civilians today while security forces laid siege to a house in south Kashmir to rescue seven hostages.

Till this evening, senior police and army officers were trying to rescue the seven civilians who were sent into a house at Tharnu village, 69 km from here in Pulwama district, to persuade four militants holed up inside to surrender.

“We are trying to secure the safe release of the villagers. The security forces are holding fire,” a senior district police officer said.

The 9 Rashtriya Rifles surrounded the house in the morning on receiving information about the militants. A brief crossfire followed. When the militants stopped firing, the troops asked the seven civilians, including an imam of a local mosque, to go inside the house and persuade the militants to surrender. But they were taken hostage as soon as they entered the house.

Two days after the chief minister’s fortified official home was targeted, militants attacked security forces with hand grenades in the summer capital and in Anantnag town of south Kashmir.

Late this afternoon, militants lobbed a grenade at a Border Security Force machinegun post outside the main bus stand at Batmallo in the capital city.

“The grenade missed the post and fell on the road outside the main Batmallo bus stand. A civilian, identified as Abdul Rashid, who was waiting for a bus died on the spot,” a police officer said.

Fifty others who were also waiting for a bus were injured while shoppers ran for cover.

Police and paramilitary forces later moved in and conducted a joint search. Security was also beefed up.

In Anantnag, militants attacked an army convoy with a hand grenade that missed the target and exploded in Lal Chowk area, killing a civilian called Mohammad Youssuf, police said.

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