Soldiers open fire on hotel in Indian-controlled Kashmir, 4 people killed

Soldiers opened fire Tuesday on a hotel in Indian-controlled Kashmir where Muslim militants were holed up after they attacked a police compound, killing two civilians and two soldiers, officials said. Security forces sealed off roads leading to the four-story Peak View Hotel in central Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state, said Ranjit Singh, a paramilitary police force spokesman.

Brief bursts of gunfire were heard from beyond the barricades as the soldiers engaged the militants in a bid to draw them out of the hotel.

The gunbattle began Monday in Lal Chowk, Srinagar's main business district, after the militants attacked a Central Reserve Police Force compound, killing two civilians and two soldiers and injuring six, Singh said. The injured included a Japanese freelance photographer, Takeshi Sakuragi, 27.

Security forces fired back, forcing hundreds of people to run and take shelter inside buildings as shopkeepers shuttered their stores to avoid the crossfire.

In the melee, the militants took refuge in the hotel, which was immediately surrounded by soldiers. There were no guests in the hotel and its six staff escaped from a side exit.

The militants, whose number was not known, and security forces exchanged gunfire through the night until the security forces made a fresh attempt to get closer to the building on Tuesday morning. Sakuragi, the injured Japanese photographer, suffered a serious bullet wound to the jaw.

He was out of danger after being operated on at Srinagar's Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital. Unable to speak because of the injury, Sakuragi wrote a message for his mother in Japanese and English on an Associated Press reporter's notebook.

"To mother. Don't worry about me. I am OK. I am sorry. When I recover I will come back (to) Japan. From Takeshi," the English version read. The Al-Mansoorain rebel group took credit for the attack on the police compound. It is one of many groups that have been fighting Indian security forces in the Himalayan region of Kashmir since 1989, reports the AP. I.L.

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