‘Family told forces the militant only has a pistol, magazine’
Srinagar: War rather than an “encounter” is what seems to have taken place in Chadoora a day before. The three-storey house of Shaheen Baba, son of Ghulam Qadir Baba, was blasted so intensely by government forces that slabs and window panes and tin sheets of neighbouring houses were torn apart. This was the same house from within which Hizbul Mujahideen militant Tawseef Ahmad Sheikh fought the government forces for more than 11 hours on Tuesday.
Windows have been burnt down, the red-coloured tin sheets that covered the roofs have been peppered by bullets, the smell of burnt wood and clothes hangs thick in the air, a half-burnt trunk and charred household belongings lie littered in the courtyard. Inside the house, the smoke has turned the walls and everything else black. The car standing in the courtyard is mangled.
Several people, including women, have come to survey the remains of the house. They mourn the destruction but resign themselves to it. “Both life and matter are in the hands of Allah,” they say in consolation.
Members of the family that lived in the house, a few of them sitting in their neighbour’s house, are mum on the event. It takes some persuasion to have a family member narrate some details of the “encounter”.
“We were taken out by the police’s Special Operations Group at about 4am on Tuesday,” he said. “They took us out of the house and shifted us some distance away from the house.”
He said that the family members told the government troops that there was only one militant, Tawseef, in the house and he had only a pistol and one magazine with him.
“The militant had recently been operated on. He was still bleeding from internal injuries. The government forces did not make any offer of surrender to him,” the family member said.
After the family was taken out of the house, a neighbour who was watching the events saw the government forces launching rockets on the house.
“The firing was so intense that it shook our houses and the earth,” the neighbour told Kashmir Reader. “The militant moved from one storey to another. He went up and down the stairs. The government forces could not prevail upon him till 2pm, probably. They used all the force they had to kill him, but in vain for several hours.”
The neighbour said that senior officers of the government forces kept telling their bosses on wireless and phones that they would not be able to enter the house, as there was stone-pelting and protests taking place outside.
“Nobody among them, neither the police, nor CRPF, nor the army’s RR, entered the house,” the neighbour said. “They were so close to the house on all sides but nobody mustered the courage. Later, they called paratroopers. The paratroopers first used IED (improvised explosive device) to blow up the front portion of the house. After sensing that firing from within the house had stopped, they crawled in groups to the upper story. The moment they reached the second storey, the firing by the militant resumed and a bullet hit a paratrooper in the thigh. Then the troopers opened indiscriminate fire and killed the militant.”
The neighbour said that when the militant’s body was recovered by the troopers, it was thrown down from the second floor to the ground.
“Then they planted another IED to blow up the entire house. For some unknown reason, they did not do so,” the neighbour said.
“People continued to gather around the house and protests and stone-pelting continued even after the militant was killed,” the neighbour said.
A police officer said that the militant was asked to surrender, but he refused. “We sent the house owner into the house. He told the house owner that he will surrender. But later, when we asked him to drop the gun, he refused to do so,” the police officer said. “How could we have known that he had just a pistol on him? For us, a gun and a pistol are the same. Both can kill. We had to fight,” the police officer said.
Another police officer said that so far only one pistol has been recovered from the site of the gunfight. “We believe he had only one pistol and some magazines,” he said.
Kashmir Inspector-General of Police Javed Mujtaba Geelani said that the militant was asked to surrender “through the house owner”.