Troops open fire on youth trying to help militants escape; Hurriyat calls for shutdown today
By ZIA-UL-HAQ/ BILAL HABIB
Pulwama: A 15-year-old boy was killed and 25 others wounded in clashes between people and government troops during a gunfight in Padgampora village of Pulwama on Thursday which ended with the killing of two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants. The encounter started early morning after government forces which included the army, police special operations group (SOG) and paramilitary CRPF laid a cordon around Padgampora village and came under fire from the militants hiding in the area.
The forces, witnesses said, steadily closed in on a residential house from within which the militants were firing. One of the militants, Jahangir Ahmed Ganai, official sources said, was killed in the initial exchange of fire at about 6:30pm after he came out of the house in an attempt to break the cordon.
Witnesses said that as soon as the news of the gunfight spread in the area, hundreds of people, mostly youth, rushed towards the site and tried to disrupt the operation by resorting to stone throwing at the troops engaged in the operation. The youth, according to witnesses, gave a tough time to the troops who fired bullets, pellets and tearsmoke shells to drive them away. A 15-year-old boy, Amir, who his neighbours said was a Class 9 student at Gowsia school in Kakpora, was killed by a bullet fired by government troops. More than a dozen others injured by bullets and pellets were taken to a nearby health care centre. It was here that doctors pronounced Amir as brought dead.
The body of Amir was taken to his native village in a huge procession that chanted pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans. Thousands of people participated in his Nimaz-e-Jinaza and he was buried in the local graveyard.
The death of Amir intensified the protests at the encounter site, where another militant, Muhammad Shafi Wagay, was continuously firing on the troops despite several calls for him to surrender.
“The troops made several announcements asking the militant to surrender and also brought his family members to convince him, but he refused and kept fighting,” locals told Kashmir Reader.
The protesting youth, witnesses said, kept fighting the troops till the holed-up militant was killed at about 4m. As the encounter ended and the troops began retrieving the body of the slain, witnesses said that the protesting youth moved close to the damaged house, leading to a second round of clashes with the troops.
The troops, witnesses said, again opened fire on the stone-throwing youth and wounded at least ten of them. The injured were shifted to hospitals in Awantipora, Pulwama and Kakpora. Four of them with bullet injuries were referred to Srinagar. One of them, according to hospital sources, had bullet injuries in his abdomen and the others had bullet injuries in their legs.
The bodies of both the killed militants were handed over to their families from the police station where they were first taken to. Their bodies were carried to their native villages, Quil and Banderpora, in separate processions. As their bodies were being taken to their native villages, youth chanted slogans and women sang elegies. Thousands of people participated in their funeral prayers.
Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was observed in Pulwama, Awantipora, Kakpora, Pampore and other major townships in mourning of the slain militants. Shops and business establishments remained shut and traffic was completely off the roads. This was the second encounter in the past five days in the district. Two Hizb militants were killed in a night-long encounter in Nazneenpora in Tral four days ago. During the encounter, an SOG constable was killed and an army major and two other troopers were injured.
A police handout said, “Police handled the situation with due care and diligence. However, from the crowd there were firing in which two police officials Khalid Ahmad and Manzoor Ahmad received bullet injuries. Both the injured were shifted to 92- Base hospital and District Hospital Pulwama respectively for treatment.”
It said Amir was injured after being “hit by a stray bullet and succumbed to his injuries”.