Kashmir: militants killed in encounters amid popular support

Srinagar: Two civilians and two militants were killed during an encounter between militants and security forces in Padgampora village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on March 9.

Fifteen-year-old boy Aamir Nazir Wani was killed during clashes that broke out near the encounter site in Padgampora in Pulwama district. A resident of Beegumbagh Kakapora in south Kashmir, Aamir was a student of ninth standard. He was rushed to a nearby primary health centre where he was declared brought dead. According to the police, Aamir was killed with a bullet to his neck. Another civilian identified as Jalalud-Din, 33, a resident of Tahab in Pulwama also succumbed to his injuries at the District Hospital Pulwama, apparently due to cardiac arrest, following the forces’ action near the encounter site.

Both the militants killed in an encounter were identified as Mohammad Shafi Wagay alias Ehsan and Jahangir Ahmad Ganie alias Saifullah from the Pulwama district. Reportedly, they were active for more than a year and belonged to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant outfit.

As the news of the gunfight between the militants and the security forces spread, scores of people reportedly turned up and started attacking the security forces with stones in an attempt to break the cordon and help militants flee. Several people sustained injuries in the clashes and were rushed to hospital. Three residential houses were reportedly razed to the ground after they were blasted by the security forces using explosives. Soon after the encounter came to an end, scores of protesters at Pampore took to the streets and raised slogans.

Police in a statement here said that acting on a tip-off regarding the presence of militants in Padgampora, a cordon and search operation was launched by police and 55 Rashtriya Rifles (RR). During the search operation, militants present in the area fired on the search party that was retaliated, ensuing an encounter. Police said these militants were involved in many incidents of violence including killing of security and police personnel and political activists, grenade attacks on security forces and police installations in south Kashmir. They were also involved in threatening masses to refrain from taking part in the forthcoming elections and motivating youth to join militant ranks in Awantipora, Pulwama and Shopian areas. They were also involved in recent bank robberies and weapon snatching incidents in south and central Kashmir.

Condemning the killings, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (March 9) tweeted that the warning of the Indian Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat has been put to action. Even JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik in a statement to local news agency, KNS, said that police and Army by killing Aamir with impunity have actually translated the Indian Army chief’s threat into action which is highly condemnable. The Army Chief had issued a stern statement on 15 February warning the protesters against disrupting anti-insurgency operations in Kashmir, by saying that they would be seen as “anti-nationals” and treated as “over-ground workers” of the militants.

Terming the incident ‘painful’, independent legislator Er Rashid in a statement here (March 9) said that it proves that the situation has gone out of hands of New Delhi. “Though security forces have been targeting unarmed civilians from day one, the threats of the Indian Army Chief have given them a licence to kill. Let New Delhi and its puppets answer what forced thousands of people to risk their lives to try to save the lives of two militants who were killed in an encounter.” He alleged that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was acting as an OGW (Over Ground Worker) to security forces and had given security forces a freehand to do whatever they want, just to ensure that she remains in the good books of New Delhi. High Court Bar Association in a statement here, March 9, said that not only the Army Chief but Director General Police as well have given a free hand to the security forces to kill, blind and injure innocent unarmed Kashmiris, without having any kind of respect for their age and the state of their health. Bashir Sidiq, General Secretary of the Association, said that nowhere else in the world are the pellet guns used to blind people but it is only in Kashmir that pellet guns are used against innocent civilians and they are not only blinded but also killed by these pellets.

Expressing anguish and grief over the killing of Aamir, Chief Minister on March 9 told local news gathering agency, KNS, that it was highly unfortunate that youth are caught in the vicious cycle of violence in the state which has consumed so many precious lives and left behind a trail of death and destruction.

Meanwhile, another militant identified as Mushtaq Ahmad, was killed in a brief shootout in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district on March 9. A native of Bandipora, Ahmad was reportedly affiliated with Hizbul Mujhaideen.

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