Government forces on Saturday killed top Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant commander, Subzar Ahmad Bhat, and his associate Faizan Muzaffar, in a gun battle in Tral area of South Kashmir while a civilian died and several others were injured in the protests that erupted over the killing of militant commander.
According to police two HM militants including a top commander were killed in a joint operation of police and security forces in Tral today.
Last evening militants had fired upon patrolling party of 42 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) at Hurdimir, Soimoh Tral, the fire was retaliated and the militants took shelter in the nearby houses. Subsequently, a cordon and search operation was launched by the joint team of Awantipora police, 42 RR and 180 Bn of paramilitary CRPF, police sources said.
The militants hiding in the houses again opened fire on the joint team, triggering an encounter. A police spokesman said that two HM militants identified as Faizan Muzaffar and Subzar Ahmad Bhat were killed and in the “cross firing one more person was injured.” He was rushed to the Tral hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
The killing of militant commander evoked widespread protests as people indulged in stone pelting with the government forces while most parts of Kashmir region observed violent protests.
Massive protests had erupted in Tral and adjacent villages against the killing of Sabzar and his aide in the gunfight that began late last night. A civilian was killed and several others injured after being hit by bullets during clashes near the site of a gun battle in Saimoh Village of Tral Township of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
Two militants, including top Hizb commander Subzar Bhat, were killed in the gunfight that lasted for several hours. Clashes erupted in Saimoh and adjacent Rathsuna – native village of Bhat – as the news of his death spread in the area. Witnesses said that forces opened fire to disperse the protesters, resulting into injuries to at least four civilians.
One of them, identified as Molvi Aqib Ahmad of Khanqah Tral, succumbed at Sub-district Hospital Tral. He had received a bullet in his forehead.
Two others were shifted to SMHS and Bone and Joints Hospital Barzulla for treatment.
“We were marching towards the encounter site in Saimoh, but the forces opened fire on us,” said an injured civilian undergoing treatment at Sub-district Hospital Tral.
Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Sabzar Bhat who succeeded slain militant leader Burhan Wani was killed on Saturday along with another militant in a gunfight with government forces in Tral area of Pulwama district in south Kashmir, said Director General of Police (DGP), S.P. Vaid.
Bhat alias Abu Zarar had succeeded Wani who was killed on July 8 last year in an encounter in Kokernag area of Anantnag. Bhat carried a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head and was at the top of the forces’ wanted list.
Meanwhile, massive protests erupted at many places in South, Central and North Kashmir following Bhat’s killing in the gunfight in Saimoh village. Markets were shut in Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian towns immediately after news about the killing spread.
Internet services have been snapped to avoid rumour mongering. Authorities had only on Friday evening lifted a ban on social media that was imposed in April. Internet services were suspended to prevent protests against the killing of top Hizb commander Sabzar Bhat and came after a month-long ban on at least 22 social networking websites. A senior police official said that the ban was invoked to contain the spread of “rumours” over the Internet.
Reports said that the broadband services on the government-owned BSNL have also been affected by the ban in some areas of south Kashmir.
During the day students also staged protests and the clashes were also witnessed in parts of Srinagar city. Students of a polytechnic institute and a college in Srinagar started pelting stones at police while a protest was also witnessed in Nowhatta. Authorities are taking steps to ensure that the killing of the Hizbul commander does not flare up into any major law and order situation.
Authorities in Pulwama said the major towns in the district will face curfew on Sunday. The decision was taken in wake of the serious law and order situation that followed the encounter and killing of HM militant commander.
“We will be enforcing restrictions in all the major towns of the district on Sunday,” a senior civil administration officer said. “This is a must to help the situation improve.” Officials said imposing any restrictions on Saturday is unwise. “People have to lay at the rest the people who were killed and it will take time,” one official said.
Interestingly, when the crisis erupted in wake of the encounter, top civil and police administration was in Pulwama. Both Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police were in Pulwama in a high level review meeting. They were in a position to get the first hand information about the happenings in the district.
Saimoh, the village where the encounter started late Friday evening falls in Tral and in the territorial limits of Pulwama district. Sources said that Sabzar Bhat, the militant commander, was hit in the initial attack and was injured.
“There was three tier security cordon and the security grid ensured that no civilian gets into the cordoned belt,” one police official said.
Curfew in Place
Authorities have decided to impose restrictions in other parts of Kashmir. Srinagar district administration imposed restrictions in eight police stations of Khanyar, Nowhatta, Safa Kadal, MR Gunj, Rainawari, Maisuma, Kralkhud and Batamaloo “until further orders.”
The section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which prohibits assembly of four more persons in an area, was imposed in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district on Saturday, hours after protests erupted over the killing of militant commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, in an encounter with government forces in Saimoh village of Tral in Pulwama district.
“According to the District Magistrate Ganderbal, Tariq Hussain Ganai, in view of the prevailing law and order situation and to avoid any damage to public and private properties, Section 144 of CrPC has been imposed within the territorial jurisdiction of Ganderbal district with immediate effect till further orders,” said an official hand out.
Today in the afternoon stone pelting incidents were reported from about two dozen places from different areas of the Kashmir Valley.
The gatherings of miscreants pelted stones on police establishments and forces camps. They also pelted stones on the moving vehicles on the busy roads and in the Chowks.
Police and security forces rushed to tackle these mobs. They were also pelted upon in which 25 police and security forces personnel were injured. The police and security forces personnel showed utmost restraint in tacking these unruly mobs. During these incidents 12 miscreants were also injured.