Srinagar: The overnight gunbattle between two militants holed-up in a house on the outskirts of this capital city ended after nearly 22 hours on Monday with the killing of both the militants. The killings of the militants reportedly belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit sparked violent anti-India protests in the area.
On Sunday evening, police and CRPF troopers laid a siege around the newly built Shadab Colony of Ahmad Nagar area after receiving information about the presence of militants there, officials said. The search team zeroed in on a single-storey house of Abdul Majeed Rangrez where the two militants were hiding. As the forces took positions, Rangrez’s wife and daughter managed to come out of the house. However, Rangrez, who works as a conductor with state-run SRTC, got trapped inside.
Minutes after the mother-daughter duo came out, the holed up militants and forces exchanged heavy gunfire. As the gunshots turned intense, many inhabitants of the locality abandoned their houses and ran for safety. In the initial exchange of fire a police constable identified as Qazi Maqsood was injured. He was removed to the hospital for treatment, officials said.
The militants and the forces continued intermittent exchange of fire throughout the night. On Monday morning, police offered the militants to surrender, even as another SOG cop identified as Tazeem was injured.
“The militants came out of the house along with the house owner. While the house owner made it safely from the encounter spot, the militants returned to the house and engaged the forces in a fierce encounter,” Abdur Rauf, a local resident, told Kashmir Reader.
“After some time, the militants left Rangrez’s house and entered an adjoining three-storey house. They traded heavy gunfire with the forces. At least 15 grenades were hurled by the forces towards the house to kill the holed up militants. The house caught fire due to explosions, killing both the militants,” he said.
Police recovered charred bodies of the militants and took them away in a van. Many fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the flames.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Abdul Gani Mir told reporters at the encounter site that two foreign militants of LeT were killed and two policemen injured in the operation that was “cautiously carried out because of the hostage crisis”. He identified the slain militants as Abu Huzaifa and Chota Hafiz.
“We got this information about the presence of Lashkar militants in the area. And when we laid the cordon, the militants forced their entry into one of the houses and took the inhabitants of the house hostage,” Mir said.
The operation, he said, took a long time because the police wanted to avert any civilian casualty or any casualty on their side “in a hostage situation”.
The slain militants, he said, were Lashkar planners and were active in Valley from last three-four years. He said the duo have mostly been active in Tral, Kangan and Gutli Bagh areas.
Meanwhile, scores of people mainly youth took to streets and staged pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations after the 22-hour encounter ended. Besides chanting slogans, the protesters also hurled stones on the forces triggering off pitched battles. The angry protesters were demanding the bodies of the slain militants.
“The cops burst teargas canisters to disperse the protesting youth. However, the youth regrouped and continued renewed assaults. Later, forces fired warning shots to scare away the stone pelting youth,” Ejaz Ahmad, an eyewitness, said.
He said that the clashes continued till late evening causing disruption of traffic on the 90- Feet Road connecting Srinagar with the neighbouring Ganderbal district. The clashes also spiralled in the neighbouring localities of Elahi Bagh, Soura and Buchpora.