Troops open fire at youth near encounter site, one killed, three injured by bullets
TRAL: Popular rebel commander Sabzar Ahmed Bhat of Rathsuna Tral was killed along with his associate Faizan Ahmed of Tral town in a massive military operation in Saimoo village of Tral, Pulwama district, on Saturday. Three residential houses belonging to three brothers, one of them a policeman, were blasted to rubble by government troops during the gunfight. A civilian was killed and several others were injured after government troops fired bullets at the youth who were trying to help the militants escape by hurling stones at the troops while the encounter was on.
The encounter began Friday evening when an army patrol near Saimoo village was fired upon by militants, police said. The army soldiers fired back and followed the militants into the interiors of the village. Soon after, contingents of troops including the army’s 42 RR (Rashtriya Rifles), police special operations group (SOG), and paramilitary forces laid a siege around the entire village, sealing all roads and routes to ensure that the militants did not escape.
Locals said that the militants were trapped in a residential house in the evening and did not open fire till early morning. “We heard some gunshots at about 2am in the night. At about 8am in the morning, we heard a terrible blast followed by a heavy exchange of gunfire. The firing continued for several hours,” a local said.
The encounter ended at about 11am with the killing of both the holed-up militants. One of them was identified as Sabzar Ahmed Bhat, the Hizbul Mujahideen’s top commander in south Kashmir.
Sabzar alias ‘Soab Don’ had joined militant ranks in April 2015 and soon rose to the rank of the commander. He was considered to be the close associate of killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and Zakir Musa who recently parted ways from Hizb. Sabzar had snatched a weapon from the CRPF man in Tral in 2015 and had joined the outfit. Another slain militant Faizan Ahmed had joined militants ranks in April 2017 after snatching gun from the cop. He was the student of class 10.
A police official said that the militants kept changing their location from one house to another. “He (Sabzar) carried a reward of 10 lakh rupees on his head,” he said.
As the news of Sabzar being trapped in a house spread in the area, a large number of youth from nearby and even far-flung areas started rushing towards the encounter site. The youths attacked the troops at the encounter site with stones from all sides. The intensity of the stone-throwing was such that the troops who were part of the operation could not move back to their stations for hours after the operation was over. The road was cleared for their vehicles late in the day, after the troops opened fire at the stone-throwing youth near Saimoo, injuring four of them with bullets. The injured were taken to the sub-district hospital in Tral where doctors declared one of them brought dead. The slain was identified as Molvi Aqib Ahmed, resident of Khankah Tral. Aqib, according to locals, was a Hafiz-e-Quran (one who has memorised the Quran). The other three injured youth were shifted to Srinagar hospitals for specialised treatment.
Amid massive clashes all around, thousands of people had gathered at the homes of the two slain militants to have a last glimpse of the slain militants and to participate in their funeral prayers. Women, children and elderly were part of the processions that marched towards Tral or went there on vehicles, with locals offering them water and juice along the way. However, the bodies of both the slain were in the custody of police till this report was filed.