Arwani: The encounter in Arwani was declared over early Saturday morning with the retrieval of three bodies of militants from the debris of the house they were fighting from.
South Kashmir DIG SP Pani briefed the press early Saturday morning.
“The operation at Arwani is over now. Three militants have been killed during the encounter, and their bodies have been retrieved,” Pani told reporters.
He said the slain militants include Lashkar-e-Toiba district commander Tufail Mattoo, “who was involved in a string of killings, especially police killings. His killing will be considered a big one.”
The other two militants have been identified as Naseer Wani of Heff in Shopian district and Adil Mushtaq of Pampore area in Pulwama district.
The operation, carried out by police, the army’s 1 RR and CRPF’s 90 Bn, started in the wee hours of Friday morning.
“Militants kept exchanging fire intermittently till about 2 in the afternoon, after which their guns fell silent for more than two hours,” a police source told Kashmir Reader.
He said the forces, sensing the militants might be dead, tried to move closer to the site of the encounter in a bid to try and retrieve the militants’ bodies.
However, as they were moving towards the site, militants fired again, pushing the government forces back.
“Following the unexpected burst, the forces stood at a distance and used petrol to set ablaze the house with the militants holed up inside and two others,” local sources said.
The sources said the forces used IEDs to demolish the house and two others adjoining it, reducing at least one to rubble.
Later in the evening, the police used bulldozers to run through the remains of the house, which by now is razed to the ground.
“They found two bodies well past midnight. One was of Junaid Mattoo and the other of Naseer Wani,” sources said, adding that Adil Mushtaq’s body was pulled out by locals after the forces left.
The militants were holed up in the house of Muhammad Shafi Malik.
Malik has also lost a militant son, named Shahid-ul-Islam, in Srinagar’s Soura area in 2014.
With the house reduced to a heap of wreckage, Malik is facing harsh times ahead with three unmarried daughters and no roof over their head.
The adjoining house, damaged severely, belongs to Gul Muhammad Malik, who also has three daughters.
Gul has also lost a son, Ishfaq Ahmad Malik, to militancy. He was killed in 2015 in Kellar area of Shopian district.
Gul’s house still reeks of petrol, and the walls spew heat more than 12 hours after it was set ablaze.
The third house belongs to Muhammad Akbar Malik.
The neighbourhood is shell-shocked over the unabated use of force and lethal tactics by the government forces.
“The militants were in one house. Even razing that one to the ground was not necessary, but they have managed to leave three families homeless and six others with severe damage to their homes,” a local said.
People from across south Kashmir thronged the site of the encounter this morning. Men, women and children walked miles in the wake of a complete shutdown to reach Arwani. Internal road links remained particularly busy with people shuttling between Arwani and Khudwani, where Junaid Mattoo’s funeral was held.
Locals in Arwani arranged a public address system to ask visitors for donations for the affected families.
“People are donating generously. The forces blow these houses up, and then the affected people are left with nothing. We are making sure the families get enough help at the earliest,” a youth collecting the money told Kashmir Reader.
The youth are of the opinion that if these families are not helped, people will stop giving shelter to militants.
“That will be a catastrophe, when you stop giving shelter to your own brothers. We do not want that,” said a masked youth, part of the group.
The youth also appealed to people from other parts of the Valley to help the affected families.