National

Kashmir: Militants killed in two separate encounters

Srinagar (21 January, 2017): Four militants were killed in two separate encounters in the Valley over the past one week. The killing of militants was seen as a major success by both police and Army.

A 14-hour long gun-battle that erupted in Awoora village of Pahalgam in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district (January 15) ended next day with the killing of three Hizbul Mujahideen militants identified as Aadil Ahmad Reshi, 25, Abid Ahmad, 21, and Masood Ahmad Shah, 29, all residents of Bijbehara (Anantnag district) in south Kashmir. Reshi, a graduate, belonged to a business family and had reportedly joined militant ranks three years back while Ahmad and Shah were reportedly active for more than two years. Reshi and Ahmad had recently featured in several videos that had gone viral on social networking sites.

Police here on January 15 said that after a specific input about the presence of militants, a joint team of Army’s 3 RR and Special Operation Group (SOG) of the police laid cordon and started searches in Awoora, a wild-life sanctuary in Pahalgam area with dense forests all around. The militants hiding in one of the houses near Overa nallah resorted to indiscriminate firing on the forces, which was retaliated, triggering an encounter.

People from several neighbouring villages reportedly marched towards the encounter site and clashed with security forces. After intense exchange of fire, heavy mortar shelling continued throughout the night that destroyed the residential house where the militants were holed up, said the locals. They further alleged that the security forces went berserk and ransacked houses after the encounter ended.

Braving chill and rough weather, scores of people from several villages turned up to participate in the funeral procession of the militants that was also attended by Hurriyat (G) leader and Muslim Conference chairman Ghulam Nabi Sumji. The chairman of the conglomerate, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, addressed mourners over the phone. Later, intense clashes broke out in Bijbehara town resulting in injuries to many including senior photojournalist Bilal Bahadur. Bilal was hit by a tear gas shell in his left arm and was hospitalized. Police allegedly fired a teargas shell directly at Bilal as he was covering the funeral procession of the militants. He had shown his camera to the security forces before he was hit by a teargas shell.

A shutdown was observed in Bijbehara for three consecutive days to mourn the killing of the three militants. All shops and commercial establishments remained closed whereas traffic went off the roads.

In another brief shootout in Hajin in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district (January 19), a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant identified as Abu Musaib, the divisional commander of the outfit, was killed. Police said that Army’s 13 RR Unit and Special Operations Group (SOG) of police cordoned off the Parr Mohallah of Hajin in the wee hours after receiving specific inputs about the presence of militants. “As the forces zeroed in on the house where the militant was believed to be hiding, he opened fire upon the forces to break the cordon. Militant identified as Abu Musaib was killed in the operation while an SOG constable, Vikas Sharma of Poonch, was injured in the shootout. He was hit by a bullet on the left side below his chest and was airlifted to the base hospital Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar in a critical condition.” 

As soon as the local residents heard the gunshots, they started marching towards the encounter site and pelted stones at the security forces which, in turn, restored to aerial firing and tear gas shelling to disperse them, triggering brief clashes, reports said.

Secrets of the Kashmir Valley

Police on January 19 said that the L-e-T militant killed in Hajin gunfight played an “active role” in organizing the Fidayeen attack of August 15, 2016 in Nowhatta that left a CRPF commandant dead and nearly a dozen soldiers injured. Police termed the death of Abu Musaib as a major success as it “will dent the Lashkar network in Bandipora district”. DGP S P Vaid has been quoted as saying, “According to our information, the foreign terrorist killed in an encounter with the security forces in Hajin area of Bandipora district today (Thursday) was the nephew of LeT top commander, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi” (January 19).

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti while replying on the Motion of Thanks on Governor’s address in the Upper House on January 16 linked revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) with restoration of peace in Kashmir and said that it would be revoked after security forces are successful in curbing infiltration of militants. Reacting to this statement, joint separatist leadership (Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik) in a statement here (January 17) said that “assertions made by Mehbooba are aimed at allowing the forces to enjoy immunity without accountability.” The joint separatist leadership issued a protest calendar for the second half of the month on January 14 with no relaxation on Fridays and asking people to observe “January 26 as black day with civil curfew.” 

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