House blasted to ground, teargas fired at funeral procession
By ZIA-UL-HAQ/ SHAFAT MIR
ANANTNAG: The gunfight that started between government forces and militants Sunday evening in Awoora village of Pahalgam ended Monday morning with the killing of all the three militants.
The army along with the special operations group (SOG) of police had cordoned off the village near a forested area in Awoora at about 4pm on Sunday. Locals and police sources said that after the cordon was laid, the troops came under heavy firing from the holed-up militants. The troops fired back and the gunfight continued through the night. Groups of youth, soon after news of the gunfight spread in the evening, assembled near the encounter site and clashed with the troops to help the militants escape. But the forces prevented them from advancing by firing teargas shells at them.
In the nightlong encounter, all the three militants were killed. Their bodies were retrieved this morning and were identified as Masood Ahmed Shah of Bewoora, Abid Farooq Shiekh of Satkipora, and Adil Ahmed Reshi of Bijbehara town.
All the slain were associated with Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. Adil had joined militant ranks in 2014 while Abid and Masood had picked up arms one-and-a half year ago.
Locals said that apart from mortar shelling, the troops also blasted the house where the militants were hiding with improvised explosive devices.
“The house has been completely razed to ground,” said a local. Three other residential houses belonging to the brothers of the house owner have also suffered massive damage.
“The army men also ransacked the three neighbouring houses of the brothers and threw out utensils and other household goods,” locals alleged.
Witnesses said that the blasts shook the houses in the entire village through the night.
Early in the morning, as soon as news spread of the militants’ death, tens of hundreds of people from several villages braved the snow and chill to reach the encounter site to take possession of the bodies. The bodies were later carried to the native villages of the militants in huge processions. Pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans reverberated in the areas where the procession passed by.
On the way to their native villages, multiple funeral prayers were held for Abid and Masood. The first Jinaza for the duo was offered near Hatigam in an open field; another was offered at Eidgah Bewoora where Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani addressed the procession on phone. In his address, Geelani urged the people to respect the blood of martyrs by staying away from elections. Funeral prayers for Adil were also held twice, first in the vast premises of his house in Bijbehara and the other at his ancestral village Hussanpora. While his body was being taken for burial to his ancestral village, troops lobbed teargas shells to prevent the procession from marching ahead, triggering clashes which continued for some time.
A complete shutdown was observed in Bijbehara, Srigufwara, Kanelwon, Arwani, Sallar and other areas of the district on Monday as a mark of respect for the deceased and in protest against their killing.