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Kashmir: Clashes, crackdowns and strikes continue; Burhan Wani's death anniversary to be observed

Srinagar (5 July 2017): Over three encounters took place between security forces and militants in south Kashmir over the past one week resulting in the death of three militants and two civilians and sustaining injuries to many. In almost all the encounters, protesters moved towards the encounter sites to save cornered militants and this triggered clashes between the the security forces and the civilians, resulting in casualties.
 
While three militants were killed in a recent encounter between militants and security forces in Bamnoo village of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on July 3, a policeman and a woman were injured in a militant attack in south Kashmir’s Anantnag town on July 3. The militants managed to give slip to security forces during a cordon-and-search operation launched in Malangpora village of Pulwama district on July 2.
 
The Bamnoo encounter began on July 3 after security forces, acting on a tip-off, cordoned off the area. Three militants were killed in the gunfight, two army officers including a major and a junior commissioned officer, a soldier and an officer of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were injured and several protesters too sustained injuries in the clashes with the security forces near the encounter site. Five houses too were reportedly blown up during the encounter. Similarly, clashes erupted in Malangpora-Pulwama after a cordon and search operation was launched by security forces in the area. The attack came barely couple of days after two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants, including a top commander identified as Bashir Lashkari, were killed in gunfight in south Kashmir’s Dailgam in Anantnag district on July 1. Two civilians too were killed in the clashes near that encounter site. Police claimed that Lashkari was wanted in the killing of six policemen, including an SHO, last month.
 
However, as the word about encounters spread in the area, people from adjacent villages rushed to the encounter site and pelted stones on the security forces in a bid to help the militants escape.  In turn, the security forces retaliated, triggering clashes.
 
Around 20 civilians have been reportedly killed near encounter sites in the Valley during the last one and a half years. The first incident, wherein the civilians fell to bullets at an encounter site, took place at Lelhar village in Pulwama district on February 15 last year. On that day, two students were killed and several injured when security forces reportedly opened fire and resorted to teargas shelling to disperse the protesters who took to streets after the death of a militant in an encounter.
 
Interestingly, Army chief General Bipin Rawat had on February 15 warned of stern action against civilians who would try to disrupt counter-insurgency operations. Even the divisional administration in Kashmir had appealed to people to stay away from counter-insurgency operation sites for their own safety. Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, on June 17 said that assembling at the encounter sites is fraught with danger as nobody can predict the trajectory of a bullet and there is also a danger of bullets hitting people after ricocheting. People should as such remain away from such sites to ensure their safety, he added.
 
According to the local news agency, KNS, police on July 3 said that it has arrested 54 youth from different districts of the Kashmir valley over the past few months and foiled their attempts to join militancy.
 
Meanwhile,United Jihad Council (UJC) spokesperson in a statement e-mailed to KNS, July 4, asked people to follow protest programmes announced by Hurriyat. The statement said, “The UJC has full confidence in the joint platform of Hurriyat leadership and respects their strategy and protest programmes. We had given a programme from July 8 to 13 which gave rise to misunderstandings. So, the protest programmes will be observed and restricted to the Base Camp only and the programmes for ground (Kashmir) will be decided by the Hurriyat leadership.”
 
The joint Hurriyat leadership on July 4, issued a programme to observe the first death anniversary of Hizbul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani on July 8. According to the programme, shutdown would be observed on July 8 and 13 to pay tributes to Wani and July 13 martyrs. Wani was killed on July 8 last year along with his two associates in an encounter with security forces in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Wani’s killing triggered summer unrest that claimed almost 90 lives.

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