The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Secret door to Gazi Baba
- Burst of fire from behind dressing table

Srinagar, Aug. 31: Assistant commandant Binu Chandran kicked at the dressing table — one, two and then a third time and it turned.

But before Chandran had fully realised the dressing table hid a secret door that had now started to open, automatic fire spat out from behind it. He could see another room inside.

“The militants fired a sharp burst from their automatics and lobbed a grenade causing injuries to our officers. The lights went off and we were in darkness,” said Chandran, carrying multiple fractures from yesterday’s encounter in which Jaish-e-Mohammad India chief Gazi Baba is believed to have been killed.

“I remained silent in the room and the militants hurled two more grenades. Balbir Singh, the wireless operator, received serious injuries and he lay flat on the floor, bleeding,” Chandran, recovering at Srinagar’s bone and joint hospital, added.

“Balbir was probably dead before he hit the ground.”

Chandran had no idea of the militants’ firepower. “One grenade which fell near me luckily failed to explode. I had a miraculous escape.”

The action took place in a ground-floor bedroom of the three-storeyed house at Danamazar in downtown Srinagar.

He ran to the second floor and took position with his guards. “The militants started firing towards us as they came out. One bullet nearly hit me. We were two officers and finally we decided to jump from the third floor.”

They had been sent to raid the house where Gazi Baba was suspected to be hiding.

As Chandran entered the bedroom, all he could see was the dressing table. He pulled its drawers. He tried to move the mirror, but nothing budged until he delivered the kicks.

The owner of the house, Mohammad Safi, is a long-time sympathiser of militancy and several members of his family are with various groups.

Safi is from Kupwara, a village known in the past for being a militant base, especially of the Hizb-ul Mujahideen. Safi, who was slightly injured during yesterday’s shootout, is now being interrogated.

His nephew, Hilal Ahmed Dar, is a battalion commander of the Hizb. The house was bought by Safi for Rs 5 lakh four years ago and has been used as a base by Gazi Baba, whose wife and three-month-old baby were living there, too, though it is not known where they are now.

Doubts whether it was really Gazi Baba who died yesterday appear to have been cleared. Late last night, several spotters — former militants who now help the security forces — confirmed the body as that of the main accused in the December 13 Parliament attack.

BSF officials said they had been tracking Gazi Baba for two weeks in the area. For the past two days, they had even come to the conclusion that this was the house from where he was operating.

“After identification of the top militant, we handed over the body to the police for burial,” a BSF official said.

The body would have to be exhumed because in the heat of the moment the police forgot to take the fingerprint.

Jaish is denying the claim. “It is a bundle of lies. Baba was not involved in the gun battle,” a spokesman said.

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