Mushtaq Ahmed/Izhar Nazir Ali
Baramulla/Srinagar: A youth was killed and four others suffered injuries on Monday when government forces opened fire upon hundreds of people protesting against killing of a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander in nightlong encounter in Sopore town of Baramulla district.
22-year-old cab driver Arshid Ahmad Shah, son of Abdul Aziz Shah, of Naseem Bagh locality of Seer, Sopore, was killed when troopers opened fire to quell pro-freedom protests in Krankshivan locality of Sopore, hours after the 18-hour gun-battle ended with the killing of LeT commander Mehmood Bhai, reports and eyewitnesses said. Javed Ahmad Mattoo, a local militant, who was holed up in the house since the cordon was laid on Sunday evening, managed to give slip to the forces.
Arshid had received multiple gunshots in the chest causing his instant death. Besides him, four more youth had suffered injuries in what the locals termed unprovoked firing by the government forces.
The injured identified as Naseer Ahmad Beig, Abid Gojri, Ilyas Shala and Shahid Ahmed were removed to the sub-district hospital (SDH) Sopore for treatment. However, the doctors referred them to Srinagar hospitals.
“Arshid was brought dead to the hospital. He had suffered multiple firearm injuries in the chest,” Block Medical Officer (BMO) Sopore, Dr Masood, told Kashmir Reader. He said four other youth had suffered injuries in lower limbs and abdomen. The condition of three of the injured was stable, he said.
Arshid’s body was taken in a procession from the hospital to his Naseem Bagh residence. Hundreds of youth had already gathered at his house. Heart wrenching scenes were witnessed as the youth brought Arshid home for the last time.
“Arshid was killed because the forces couldn’t grab Javed. They vent their anger by shooting dead an unarmed civilian. He was killed in cold-blood,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a protester.
The forces, he said, opened volley of gunfire upon peaceful demonstrators, who had assembled in Krankshivan area to visit the families who lost their property in the gunfight.
Police, however, said the operation parties while withdrawing from the area were pelted with stones. “The mob swelled and attempted to set at fire one security armoured vehicle. Security forces used non-lethal weapons but the situation could not be controlled. Resultantly, few shots were fired in which four people got injured.
“One of the injured…succumbed to his injuries unfortunately. Other injured people have been hospitalized and are stated to be out of danger. The incident is being enquired into and a case has been registered in this regard,” a police handout said.
Meanwhile, thousands of people participated in funeral prayers of the slain youth at Bagh-e-Islam. Amidst pro-freedom and anti-India sloganeering, Arshid was laid to rest at the martyrs’ graveyard.
Later in the evening, clashes broke out between protests and forces in several areas of the apple town. Angry youth shouting pro-azadi, pro-militant, pro-Islam and anti-India slogans clashed with forces at Naseem Bagh, Krankshivan, Chankhan, Tulibal and other areas of the town. Police and paramilitary forces burst teargas canisters after failing to break up anti-India demonstrations with batons.
Earlier in the day, LeT commander Mehmood Bhai was killed after army’s 52 RR, 22 RR, Special Operations Group (SOG) of police and paramilitary CRPF blasted a residential house in Krankshivan locality. However, Javed Mattoo, who was fighting the joint team managed to flee amidst intense exchange of fire. Two houses belonging to Abdul Gani Gojri and Mohammad Shaban Pinjoo suffered extensive damage in the encounter.
Javed, eyewitnesses said, rose up from the debris of the house before taking the forces by surprise. The dramatic escape of Javed, accused by police of assassinating a Congress activist’s son on Friday last, left the forces red faced.
Earlier, Javed’s mother Rehti Begum and brothers, Rameez and Manzoor, were brought by forces to the encounter spot to persuade him to lay down the arms.
“Javed, however, turned down his mother’s request and fought fiercely with the forces,” eyewitnesses said.
Meanwhile, terming the killing of Mehmood Bhai a success, army said that it was searching for him for a long time.
“Lashkar’s Mehmood Bhai was killed when he tried to break the cordon on Monday morning. He was a foreigner and was active for almost a year. And on four occasions, he managed to escape from the cordon. Today, we neutralized him,” Alok Joshi, Commander, 5 Sector RR told mediapersons at the encounter spot.