Srinagar: At least a dozen people, including nine CRPF men and policemen were injured Tuesday in the clashes triggered by the killing of three Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants, including a District Commander of the outfit, in a fierce gun-battle in south Kashmir’s Pulwama.
Hundreds of people from Hanjin and the neighbourhood villages took to streets after news spread in the area that the militants holed up in a residential house since Monday evening were killed by the joint team of army and police, reports and eyewitnesses said.
Chanting pro-freedom, pro-militant, and anti-India slogans, the people tried to march towards the encounter site to take the bodies of the slain militants. However, the forces burst teargas canisters to disperse them.
“The forces action infuriated the protesters. They hurled rocks and stones on the deployments. The pitched battles continued for some time,” Javed Ahmad, a local resident, told Kashmir Reader.
He said the forces dispersed the protesters before retrieving bodies of two of the slain militants—Altaf Ahmad Rather, the JeM’s District Commander, and his associate Farooq Ahmad Laway of Delwan, Budgam—from the debris of the house that was razed to ground with explosives. Earlier in the forenoon, Showkat Ahmad of Aglar, the third militant, was killed when he tried to break the cordon.
While Rather was a prominent militant, who was active in the area for the last four years, his associate Farooq, had joined the outfit five months ago, after giving up his job as a carpenter.
“Scores of people from Hanjin, Bon Hanjin, Bandzoo, Dalwan and other adjoining villages marched towards the police station Rajpora to demand bodies of the slain militants. The situation took an ugly turn when police burst teargas canisters and fired warning shots to disperse the protesters, who attacked the police station with stones,” Ahmad said.
In the clashes, over a dozen people, including nine CRPF troopers and policemen were injured. Markets in Rajpora and Pulwama town observed a spontaneous shutdown to mourn the killing of the trio.
Earlier, Showkat’s father, Ghulam Qadir Dar, was brought by forces to the encounter spot to persuade his son to lay down the arms. However, Showkat continued to engage the forces in a fierce fire-fight, witnesses said.
22-year-old Showkat, according to his father, had joined militant ranks last month “after facing constant persecution at the hands of the security agencies.”
“My son left for his shop on August 19, but he didn’t turn up there. Later, we filed a missing report with the police. Last night, we came to know that Showkat was trapped at Hanjin. This morning, we rushed to the village,” Dar said. He said his son was harassed and detained by the cops on several occasions.
The encounter raged on Monday night, when a team of police and army’s 44 Rashtriya rifles (RR), and CRPF’s 182 and 183 battalions laid a cordon around Hanjin village after receiving a tip-off about the presence of JeM militants in the house of Wali Muhammad Nengroo. When the joint team zeroed in on the house, the militants trapped in the house opened random fire upon them to break the cordon. The joint team had returned the fire triggering off fierce gun-battle that continued intermittently.
Tuesday morning, additional reinforcements were rushed to the village to prevent the militants from escaping.
Meanwhile, a police spokesman in a handout here said that three JeM militants, including the outfit’s commander were killed in the encounter. The commander, the spokesperson said, was involved in many militancy-related activities.
“Altaf was one of the group members involved in the attack and weapon snatching incident at a police guard at Pakharpora shrine in Budgam this year,” the spokesman added.