Srinagar: Seven militants, an army jawan and a civilian were killed in separate incidents of violence in south Kashmir on Sunday amid a massive counterinsurgency offensive launched in the Valley by the security forces. Separatists have called for a shutdown on Monday against what they called killing of 18 Kashmiris in the past three days. Police said that six militants killed in Shopian village were involved in several heinous crimes including killing of three policemen.
Official sources said that a joint team of security forces cordoned off Batagund village in Shopian district of south Kashmir during the night hours to launch an attack on a suspected house where militants were hiding. The security forces had specific tip-off on the presence of militants.
During the initial bout of firing a soldier of 162 Territorial Army, Nazir Ahmad was hit by bullets along with another soldier. They were shifted to hospital for treatment where Ahmad, a resident of Ashmuji village in neighbouring Kulgam district succumbed to his injuries. Sources said that four militants were killed in the first round of firing. There was a lull of more than an hour when militants again opened fire. In the retaliatory firing, two more ultras were gunned down.
The group belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) outfits and all but one slain militants were local residents including Abbas Bhat, who had recently taken over as the group’s 'district commander' to replace Zeenatul Islam, who has joined Al Badr group in the area. The Sunday gunfight was the fourth encounter in south Kashmir region in a week’s time. During these gunfights, 12 militants including top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba were killed, six each in Anantnag and Shopian districts.
Army’s Srinagar-based spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia confirmed the casualties in the Shopian encounter. “OpHipuraBatagund (#Shopian). Two more #terrorists killed. Total Six terrorists killed. Weapons and warlike stores recovered. One soldier also martyred. Operation over,” Kalia tweeted.
Locals said that after the daybreak when the news about the encounter spread in the area, hundreds of villagers marched towards the encounter site. The security forces fired tear smoke shells and fired automatic weapons to stop protesters. During the security forces’ action, several protesters were wounded. Among the injured, one civilian Noman Ashraf Bhat succumbed to his injuries. Another youngster Faizan Ahmad was admitted to hospital with a bullet wound.
A health official in Kulgam said that they received a 25-year-old youth with firearm injury and a five girl with pellet injury.
A police spokesman identified the slain militants as Mushtaq Ahmad Mir, Mohammad Abass Bhatt, Umar Majeed Ganaie, Mohammad Waseem Wagay and Khalid Farooq Malik. Intelligence reports said that one militant was a suspected foreigner.
“It was a combined group of HM and LeT, as per police records, Mushtaq Ahmad Mir alias Hammad was affiliated with LeT and was operating as District commander for Shopian, while Mohd Abaas, Waseem Wagay, Umar Majeed Ganai and Khalid were with HM. Mohammad Abass was known as District Commander of HM for Shopian and Umar Majed was operating as district commander of HM for Kulgam,” said police spokesman.
“All the killed six militants were wanted by the law for their complicity in a series of terror crimes including the attack on security establishments and civilian killings in the area. With their elimination, all notorious militants of the belt have been successfully eliminated,” said a police spokesman.
He said Umar Majeed had escaped from an encounter in Batamaloo area of Srinagar a few months ago. His picture clicked in front of famous Clock Tower in Srinagar had gone viral a few days ago.
In another incident, a militant of Jaish-e-Muhammad outfit was killed in a brief shootout in Khrew area of Pampore in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Sunday afternoon. He was identified as Waseem, a resident of Pakistan.
A police spokesman said that on credible input about the presence of militants, a swift search operation was launched jointly by Police and security forces at Bathien area of Khrew in Awantipora.
“As the searches were going on, the search party was fired upon by the militant. The firing was retaliated leading to a brief exchange of gunfire,” he said.
“Consequently one militant was killed in the exchange of fire,” he added.
“Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition and an AK 47 Rifle with magazines were recovered from the killed militant.
Sources said thousands of people took part in the funeral of slain class X student Nouman Ashraf Bhat at his native village of Bolsoo of Kulgam district.
Meanwhile, separatist Joint Resistance Leaders (JRL)-- Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik called for a complete shutdown against the killing of “about 18 Kashmiris in last 3 days and injuring hundreds by the indiscriminate use of bullets, pellets and other oppressive measures by Indian occupational forces”.
Police said that a module inspired by Islamic State was arrested from Kothibagh area of Srinagar with the assistance of Delhi police.” At a naka checkpoint, a party of Srinagar Police intercepted a motorcycle borne terrorists who were moving through the Kothi Bagh area. Police acting swiftly apprehended the motorcyclist and the other two associates. Arms and ammunition were recovered from the possession of the trio. They have been identified as Tahir Ahmad Khan, Haris Mushtaq Khan and Asif Suhail Nadaf resident of Rainawari Srinagar.