20 civilians injured during clashes, 4 of them with bullets
Pulwama: Two militants have been killed in an ongoing gunfight with government forces, here in Kellar area of Pulwama district on Monday. The gunfight, while this report was being filed, was already in its 14th hour and two to three militants were still keeping the government troops engaged in an intense exchange of fire. Four soldiers were also injured in the gunfight.
At least 20 civilians have been injured, four of them with bullets, as police used force to disperse hundreds of protesters near the encounter site.
The bodies of the slain militants are yet to be retrieved and their identities remain unverified.
According to police sources, a cordon and search operation was launched in Bamnoo village of Kellar at about 7am in the morning, following inputs regarding presence of militants in the area. “Searches were being conducted and as our teams zeroed in on the house where militants were hiding, two of them tried to flee the spot, using indiscriminate gunfire as a shield,” a senior police officer posted in the area told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the government forces retaliated and in the process gunned down the two fleeing militants.
Pulwama Superintendent of Police Choudhary Aslam confirmed that two militants had been killed. “Two to three militants, based on the pattern of gunfire from the house, are still holed up inside,” he said.
“On the basis of intelligence inputs, the slain militants may be Jahangir and Kifayat,” he said about the identity of the killed militants.
Sources said the killed militants were affiliated to the group led by estranged Hizbul commander Zakir Musa. Musa has recently left Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and has pledged allegiance to “Global Jihad”. He is known to have a cadre of seven to ten militants under him.
If the reports are true that the militants cornered in Banmoo belong to Musa’s group, the group will be cut down to less than half by the time the operation concludes.
Sources on the ground said that police operations have been hampered due to the make and location of the house from within which the militants are fighting.
“It is surrounded by dense trees and the house is an old one, built of mud. The forces have been firing explosives from a distance at the house, but the explosives have been ineffective,” a source present at the site told Kashmir Reader.
Moreover, the sources said, the operation has also been hampered by the daylight growing darker every minute.
Clashes had erupted in the area soon after the cordon was laid and in desperate bids to give the trapped militants an escape route, local youth kept attacking the government forces with stones. The forces allegedly used bullets and pellets to disperse the swelling, unrelenting crowd.
Sources said that the clashes were so intense that senior police officers remained busy in handling the law and order situation instead of visiting the site of the encounter.
More than 20 people were injured during the clashes, 4 of them with bullets.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Pulwama, Dr Talat Jabeen, told Kashmir Reader that a total of 13 injured were received at Pulwama district hospital.
“Seven among them were referred to Srinagar hospitals, four with bullet and three with pellet injuries,” Jabeen said. “All of them, however, are stable, I have been told by the hospital authorities in Srinagar,” he added.
Jabeen said at least six other injured were received at the Rajpora hospital. “One kid with an eye haemorrhage has been shifted to Srinagar from Rajpora. The rest of them were discharged from the hospital,” Jabeen said.
Today’s encounter came hours after people were able to help militants escape from a cordon laid in Malangpora village of Pulwama district, falling within the jurisdiction of police station Awantipora.
As per police reports, a cordon was laid in Astaan Mohalla locality of Malangpora at about 10:30pm Sunday night. Soon after the cordon was laid, people in hundreds came out following announcements on mosque loudspeakers. Also, audio clips urging people to come out and save their “brethren” were circulated on WhatsApp.
Intense clashes erupted in the area and continued for a couple of hours, giving the trapped militants an escape route.
The clashes died down at about midnight. The searches continued till 2:30am, after which the operation was called off.