Two suspected terrorists were killed, one arrested, and two escaped, while
one highly decorated Delhi police Inspector was killed and another injured,
in a fierce encounter in Jamia Nagar of South Delhi today.
Delhi Police said five suspected terrorists, holed up inside House No L-18, Batala House in Jamia Nagar, near Khalilullah mosque, exchanged heavy fire with the police team that tried to enter the house for investigations.
The encounter that began at about 11 am in the morning lasted almost an hour.
Delhi Police Special Cell Joint Commissioner Karnail Singh later confirmed that there were a total of five suspected terrorist at L-18. Two were shot dead and one arrested while two managed to escape.
Five residents of Jamia Nagar have been detained for questioning, though it has not been established if the two who escaped from the encounter spot have been arrested yet.
The owner of the house where the five militants were holed up has been detained along with four others of the locality, a senior police official said.
The two killed alleged terrorists have been identified as Atiq alias Bashar and Faqruddin (also identified as Sajid in some accounts), who, the police claim, were members of the proscribed Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islamia as well as banned SIMI. The police claim that they hailed from Azamgarh in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Atiq played a "key role" in the blasts in Delhi as well as in Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Bangalore, Delhi Police Commissioner Y S Dadwal told reporters in a press conference.
The militant, arrested after being injured in the operation, was identified as Saif. He has been admitted to hospital.
Police suspect that the militants were planning to carry out more terror strikes in the national capital besides targeting some VIPs.
Earlier, around 150 police personnel were deputed in the predominantly Muslim Jamia Nagar area to assist the Special Cell in the operation. They had cordoned off the area, which is why there is some confusion as to how two of the five alleged terrorists could escape from the area. The encounter began at 0900 hours when the police got a tip off about the presence of militants in the third floor of a house near Batla House.
Interestingly, home minister Shivraj Patil was reported to have remained at the Police headquarters while the encounter lasted whereas the minister for state for home, Sriprakash Jaiswal told a TV channel that he had no information about the encounter and knew what he did from TV channels which, apparently, he had been monitoring very closely.
It had earlier been erroneously reported by various TV news channels that the police were working on the information from the prime suspect in the Ahmedabad serial blasts, Abu Bashar, who had identified the four-storied house near a mosque in Jamia Nagar as the one where he, along with Delhi serial blasts mastermind Md Subhan Qureshi, had taken shelter in July.
Bashar, who was brought to Delhi recently from Ahmedabad for questioning after last week's serial blasts in Delhi that claimed 24 lives, was said to have identified four places - two in North West District and one in South District - where some terrorists could still be hiding.
Delhi police commissioner Dadwal later "categorically denied" that the encounter was based on any tip-off from Ahmedabad blast accused Bashar about the terrorists' hideout. But he did confirm that the name of Atiq figured during the interrogation of Abu Bashar, one of the prime suspects in Ahmedabad blasts: "Atif was linked to Mohammed Usman Qureshi alias Tauqeer, the main mastermind behind serial bomb blasts in various parts of the country."
He said Delhi police had intelligence inputs on the presence of terrorists in the house, who were linked to the Delhi blasts and during a checking, the terrorists fired on the personnel.
Rumours of a Fake Encounter
Earlier, as the news about the encounter trickled in, and gun shots were heard, tensions ran high in the Jamia Nagar locality, as the house where the suspected terrorists were holed up is very close to Khalilullah mosque.�
Once firing stopped, large number of people thronged the narrow lanes of the area and shouted religious slogans. "We are all against terrorism, then why was our religious places
targeted?," asked one of the residents.
Refuting any such news, DCP South Delhi HGS Dhaliwal clarified that no religious place was used during the encounter. "The firing was done from a place near the religious place," he said.
The tensions were fuelled by rumours that the operation was concocted by police and no fire was shot from inside the house. Some TV channels had apparently also reported that the terrorists were hiding inside the nearby mosque.
As a result, some media personnel were abused by the local residents. They claimed that no shot were fired from inside the house and the encounter was a blatant lie.
Neighbours of the house where the entire operation unfolded, however, confirmed that gun shots were fired from both sides.
"It all started at 10.30 in the morning. We were preparing to go to our work when some police people came in the area," said an eye-witness who refused to disclose her identity. The police commissioner however claimed that the encounter started around 11am.
According to the police version of events, a police team of 20 led by Assistant Commissioner of Police Sanjeev Yadav
reached Jamia Nagar and took positions on the buildings around apartment block
L-18 before between 9 and 10am.
Late Mohan Chand Sharma, Inspector of Delhi Police Special Cell
Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, who was not wearing his regulation bullet-proof jacket,
knocked on the front door of an apartment on the fourth floor of L-18 building
around 11 am. He asked the inmates of the house to come out for police verification.
The police say the occupants, instead of coming out, opened fire from a .30 mm pistol.
The 41-year-old highly decorated Inspector was hit by three bullets -- in his abdomen, thigh and right arm. As he fell down, and the other policemen took shelter, head constable Balwant Singh suffered a bullet injury on his right hand. A profusely bleeding Sharma was taken to the nearby Holy Family Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries at 7 pm.
Meanwhile, senior police officials, including Joint Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Karnal Singh and Deputy commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Alok Kumar arrived at Jamia Nagar. Various teams of the Special Cell are pressed into the service along with a platoon of elite National Security Guards commandos.
Teams wearing protective gear once again tried to move into the apartment. According to the police, they fired a total of 22 rounds; while the alleged terrorists inside the apartment retaliated with eight rounds.
Delhi Police Commissioner Dadwal said the police also recovered an AK-47 assault rifle along with two 0.30 pistols and a computer from the L-18 residence where the militants were staying for the past two months.