Force fire into massive procession that came to militants’ rescue, injuring many; thousands attend funeral of deceased
ANANTNAG: Four militants, two soldiers and a civilian were killed and three soldiers injured during a nightlong gunfight in Frisal area of Kulgam district.
Another civilian was killed and more than two dozen youths suffered injuries, most of them bullet and pellet injuries, during the clashes that erupted near the encounter site.
Acting on an input about the presence of militants in Nagbal locality of Frisal, dozens of policemen, soldiers and CRPF troopers surrounded the area late Saturday evening.
The forces zeroed in on the house where the militants were hiding. Two soldiers were killed when they stormed the house and came under fire from militants. Three others were injured.
The deceased militants were identified as Mudasir Ahmed Ahmed Tantray alias Asim of Redwani Kulgam; Wakil Ahmed Thokar of Harigam Kulgam; Farooq Ahmad of Chak Dasand and Younis Ahmad Lone of Hawara, Kulgam.
Mudasir and Wakil were associated with Lashkar-e-Toiba, and Farooq and Yunus belonged to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.
Yunus had joined militants’ ranks only 27 days ago. The other three had been active for a year now.
An army spokesperson identified the deceased soldiers as Lance Naik Bhandoria Gopal Singh of Gujarat and Sepoy Raghubir Singh of Uttrakhand.
The slain civilian and house owner, who was present in the house when the two sides exchanged fire, was named as Ashiq Ahmad Reshi son of Abdul Majid Reshi.
Thousands of people participated in the funeral prayers of slain militants and civilians. They were buried in their native villages amid pro-freedom slogans.
Locals said the forces after the exchange of fire throughout the night blasted the house by using IEDs, killing all four militants.
“The blasts were so powerful that all houses in the locality shook,” said Jana Begum, whose house is located at a little distance from the house where the militants were holed up.
In the morning as the news about the militants being trapped in a house spread, tens of hundreds of youth from different villages rushed towards the village to help the militants escape.
But the forces who had sealed all the roads and streets leading towards the encounter site fired bullets, pellets, tear smoke shells and pepper gas to drive away the stone-throwing youth, injuring about two dozen.
The injured people were taken to nearby health care facilities where doctors referred them to district hospital Anantnag.
One of the injured youth, Mushtaq Ahmed Itoo son of Muhammad Ibrahim Itoo of Hatigam, Srigufwara, succumbed on way to hospital.
“We received at least 24 injury cases. Out of them four were referred to Srinagar hospital after first aid. Most of the injured had been hit by bullets and the rest had pellet or teargas shell injuries,” said a doctor posted at district hospital Anantnag.
Three of the youth referred to Srinagar were identified as Owais Ahmad Sheikh, Yunus Ahmad and Saqib Ahmad.
While Yunus and Owais had bullet injuries in chest and thigh respectively, Saqib had been hit by pellets in eyes.
Superintendent of Police Kulgam Shridar Patil said “about 20,000 people attacked the forces from all the sides to allow militants to escape from the site.”
Commander of the 1 Rashtriya Rifles battalion Brigadier R Chakarbarti described the killing of the four militants as a ‘big jolt’ to the Hizb and LeT outfits.
“But the killing of two jawans and a civilian was unfortunate and we regret that,” the commander told reporters.
He said the militants had taken the deceased civilian hostage.
“After we came to know that a civilian was inside the house we stopped the operation till morning. We also involved the local Auqaf committee members and offered the militants to surrender which they refused. They did not let him to come out. But as he tried to come out the fired from the back resulting into his death,” he added.
A complete shutdown was observed in entire Kulgam district against the killings.
The killings also triggered a complete shutdown and clashes in Anantnag town in the afternoon.