6 soldiers injured; CRPF commandant critical, airlifted to Delhi; civilian injured in firing during people’s bid to save militant
By Owais Farooqi/ Mushtaq Ahmad
Bandipora/ Baramulla: Four soldiers including a Major and four militants were killed in two gunfights in Bandipora and Handwara areas on Tuesday. A civilian, six soldiers and a CRPF officer were injured in these encounters.
A police official told Kashmir Reader they had specific information of presence of more than one militant in the area following which the 13 RR and 31 RR of the army, 45 Bn of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Special Operations Group (SOG) of police cordoned off two villages in Hajin – Parray Mohalla and Khos Mohalla – in wee hours earlier on Tuesday.
The gunfight that ensued resulted in the death of Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Abu Musa who tried to break the cordon and three soldiers— Dherminder Kumar of 31 RR, Ravi Kumar of 31 RR and Ashutosh Kumar of 13RR.
The injured soldiers are Major BS Thapa, Mukesh Chandra, Jatinder Singh, Sandeep Kumar and Ravi Kumar. CRPF commandant Chetan Cheeta has been airlifted to Delhi for treatment as he had been critically injured.
According to eye-witnesses, protests erupted near the encounter site where locals attempted to break the security cordon to help the militant escape.
The forces fired several rounds in the air and resorted to teargas shelling to disperse the protesters while the gunfight was on.
A civilian, identified as Hilal Ahmad Parrey of Parray Mohalla, was injured in these protests.
After the encounter ended, locals, eye-witnesses said, made announcement on loudspeakers asking people to join funeral prayers for the slain militant.
The locals assembled near Masjid-e-Wahab in Khos Mohallah, Hajin and offered the funeral prayers for the slain LeT commander and raised pro-freedom slogans later.
The shops and business establishments in Hajin area remained closed for the day.
During another gunfight, three militants and a Major, S Dhaiya, were killed on Tuesday evening at Khan Mohalla in Hajin Kralgund, Handwara area of Kupwara district.
The militants were hiding in a house that had been surrounded by soldiers and police.
Third Encounter in Hajin this year
The killing of Lashkar e Toiba’s (LeT) commander Abu Musa comes after the government forces killed two other LeT militants in the Hajin area.
Earlier, Abu Musaib and Abu Muaviah from LeT ranks were killed in the North Kashmir’s village, around 45 km from Srinagar.
Abu Musaib was killed in the Hajin’s Parray Mohalla earlier on January 19. He is believed to be the nephew of Lashkar’s top operational chief Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
On January 10, another Lashkar militant identified by police as Abu Muaviah was also killed in Parray Mohalla.
A security official told Reader, the militant outfits in Kashmir are trying to set up a base in Bandipora area resulting in the increase in militant movement in the area. At least four militants had escaped a security cordon in Hajin earlier on January 5. Musaib and Musa were believed to have been trapped in the cordon but managed to escape that day, the security official said.
A brief gunfight between militants and government forces in Hajin’s Shahgund village resulted in the injuries to two army men on December 29 after another top LeT commander Abu Bakr was killed by government forces in Sopore on December 14.
– with inputs from Anees Zargar