Pulwama: Two Hizbul Mujahideen militants, one of them a police deserter, were killed by government forces in a brief encounter in Vihil village of south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Thursday. Thousands of people took part in their funeral prayers as the twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama observed a complete shutdown.
A group of youngsters carrying the body of one of the slain militants hijacked a police mobile bunker from Pulwama town and set it ablaze.
Police said two militants Wasim Ahmad Malla alias Rizwan of Pehlipora Shopian and Naseer Ahmad Pandit of Karimabad Pulwama were killed in a brief encounter with forces in Vihil village of Shopian early on Thursday.
The Superintendent of Police, Shopian, said that Vihil village was cordoned off on the basis of specific information on Wednesday night. At around 5 am in the morning the militants, SP said, in an attempt to break the cordon came out of their hideout e and resorted to heavy firing. “In retaliation both the militants were killed,” he said.
Soon after the news about death of cop turned militant, Naseer Ahmad Pandit spread people from many villages of Pulwama district started marching towards Karimabad, the native village of the slain militant at 2 kilometers from district headquarters.
Men and women, young and old from adjoining villages of Wahibugh, Zadoora, Gusoo, Chewakalan, Gudoora, Newa , Ashmander, Barpora, Chewakhurd and other places were seen moving in groups to Karimabad to attend the funeral procession of Naseer, a former policeman who deserted the ranks last year to join Hizbul Mujahideen.
Naseer was among the security personnel of then minister Altaf Bukhari at his Srinagar residence when he fled away along with two service rifles.
The people raised pro-freedom and anti India slogans during the funeral procession.
A police vehicle that was hijacked by youth from Pulwama was seen in flames and many agitated youth were throwing stones.
Naseer was the second militant from the village who was killed by government forces in past three days. Two days ago Bilal Ahmad Bhat, another militant from same village was killed in an encounter with security forces in Gudoora village.
Eyewitnesses said that amid the gathering of a large numbers of people, a youngster in black attire sprang up brandishing an automatic rifle and fired several gunshots in air.
The firing created panic and several people tried to escape from the scene. However, it was announced that the weapon was fired by Tariq Ahmad Pandit, an active militant from the village to pay tribute to his slain cousin.
Eyewitnesses said that nearly a kilometer stretch of road from Bongam to Hargam mohalla of Karimabad village was filled with people who had made human chains on both sides of the road.
All houses, shops and other residential buildings along the road were occupied by people and many youngsters had climbed electric poles and trees.
The body of Naseer was carried throughout the village and the funeral prayers were offered four times.
Pro-freedom leaders including Ghulam Mohudin Andrabi and Bashir Ahmad addressed to people prior to funerals and urged them to stay away from unionist political parties which according to them were strengthening Indian occupation in Kashmir.
Naseer along with three youth of same village including Tariq Ahmad, Bilal Ahmad and Afaq-ullah Bhat had joined militant ranks in March of 2015. Tariq is now the lone surviving member from the Naseer group.
Naseer, who was posted as personal security guard with then minister for roads and buildings, Syed Altaf Bukhari had run away with his service rifle a year ago. He was seen in recent videos and photographs of homegrown group of Hizbul Mujahedeen that surfaced on various
social networking sites.
After graduating from government degree college Pulwama in 2006, Naseer joined Jammu and Kashmir police as constable in Indian Reserve Police in 2007 and served it till 2015.
A cousin of the slain militant who wished anonymity said that Naseer was always against menace of drug peddling in the area.
“He was approached by senior police officials from district Pulwama for helping them to nab four drug peddlers including a kingpin,” the cousin said, adding that they were arrested by police after they
entered into the house of villager posing as militants.
He said that the police revealed to the drug peddlers that they were helped by Naseer to arrest them and the peddlers were released after some days.
“When Naseer protested their release, a police official who was then in charge munshi at police station Pulwama misbehaved with him. He humiliated and slapped him because one of the peddlers was his close relative,” he said.
He said that the drug peddlers used to roam near Naseer’s houses during late hours to embarrass his family.
He said the incident changed Naseer’s life.
“A couple of days after this incident he run away from his place of posting along with weapons and joined militants,” he said.
The villagers in Karimabad remember him as crusader who was always against menace of drug addiction.
A youth from the village said that during September floods of 2014, Naseer arranged around 1 lakh water bottles from different villages in Pulwama and distributed them to people in Srinagar.
“He was very generous and was helping needy people. He used to spend half of his monthly salary for purchasing medicines for a cancer patient in the village,” the youth said.
Police said Malla had joined militant ranks in October 2012.
Meanwhile, police said that two AK-47 rifles, 183 rounds, 6 magazines, 2 grenades, 2 electronic detonators, a wire-cutter and currency notes were recovered from the possession of the slain militants.
“The killed militant Anam-ul-Haq Malla was active from 2012 and was involved in many militancy related activities including attack on police guard deployed at Pargochi Shopian where he had snatched two SLR rifles,” the police spokesman said.
Four militants have been killed in the past three days in Kashmir valley since Mehbooba Mufti took oath as Chief Minister on April 4. On Tuesday, a militant Fayaz Ahmad was killed in Gadoora village of Pulwama while another militant was killed on Wednesday in Lolab pocket of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.
—With inputs from Shabir Ahmad from Anantnag