18-hr Shopian encounter ends with IED blast, 5 killed

SHABIR AHMAD
ANANTNAG: The gun battle in southern Shopian district ended on Saturday morning as joint team of police and army carried an “IED blast” to blow up a residential house where three militants were holed up for nearly 18 hours.
Apart from three militants owing allegiance to Hizbul Mujahideen outfit, a Major and a soldier from army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles were killed during the course of gunfight at Karewa Village.
A joint team of special operations group (SOG) of police, army’s 44 RR and 14 battalion CRPF on Friday had cordoned off the village following an input about the presence of militants there.
As the joint team advanced, officials said, the team came under fire from the militants triggering a fierce encounter.
“The house was demolished by detonating an IED and during the clearance of debris, three militant bodies have been recovered,” DIG south Kashmir, Vijay Kumar told reporters after the firefight ended.
The slain militants have been identified as Asif Ahmad Wani alias Muzamil of Drubgam Pulwama, Shabir Ahmad Gorsi alias Rizwan of Rengward Keller and Abd-ul-Haq of Arwani Bijbehara.
The two militants, officials said, had been killed only yesterday while the third one was killed at around 7 am today after his ammunition exhausted.
Two army men including an officer, Major Mukund Vardharajan and Sipoy Vikrant were also killed in the gunfight.
“Believing that all the three holed up militants were killed after the house was blasted, army officer and another soldier went near the debris. One of the militants emerged from the debris and fired upon them. Officer was killed on spot while another soldier succumbed to injuries later,” said DIG south Kashmir, Vijay Kumar.
He said that after suffering the causalities they had to suspend the operation for the night. “The operation was resumed this morning and third militant was also killed. All the three belonged to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen outfit,” Kumar said.
The police officer also rejected as untrue the reports that one militant has managed to escape nfrom the spot.
Asif was formerly a Jaish Militant who had joined Hizb and was District commander of the outfit, a police spokesman said in a statement.
Abdul Haq Malik, the spokesman said, was involved in the killing of a policeman in Arwani area last year.
Massive protests and clashes erupted at the encounter site and several other places between the forces and youth after the encounter ended. A large number of people particularly youth from Karewa and other adjoining villages rushed towards the spot as soon as the encounter ended.
The youth clashed with the forces by resorting to heavy stone pelting at them. The forces in retaliation lobbed tear smoke shells and fired few shots in air to disperse the stone pelting youth.
However, amid clashes, eyewitnesses said, forces managed to retrieve the bodies and take them to district police lines Shopian where from they were handed over to their families.
The slain were later buried in their native villages amid pro-freedom and anti-India protests. Reports said that large number of people participated in the funeral prayers of the slain. Reports of clashes were received from Arwani, the native village of one of the militants.