Anantnag: Three militants were killed in a day-long gun battle with government forces on Saturday in a forest area high in Tral region of Pulwama district. The militants’ bodies have been retrieved but their identities are yet to be ascertained. The militants are believed to be members of Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit.
Director General (DG) of Police in Kashmir, SP Vaid, confirmed that the encounter was over and three bodies had been retrieved from the site of the gunfight.
“Three bodies have been retrieved. We are trying to ascertain the identities of the slain,” Vaid told Kashmir Reader over phone.
However, sources told Kashmir Reader that two of the militants are from south Kashmir. They include Mukhtiyar Ahmad Lone, resident of Harpura Moh, Ameerabad Tral, and Parvaiz Ahmad Mir from Pohu, Pulwama.
Both had joined the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) last month. The third slain militant known as Hasan Bhai is a Pakstani.
According to reports, a Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) was launched in the forest area between Satoora and Hajin villages of Tral, some 17 kilometers from the main town.
Between the two villages lies a hillock which over the years has been used as a camping site by local trekkers and as a picnic spot by families. It was on this hillock that the militants were taking shelter, in a cave.
The CASO was launched at about 6:00 AM Saturday morning. “There were specific inputs regarding the presence of militants in the area. A joint operation by army, police and CRPF was initiated to flush them out,” a police official from the area told Kashmir Reader.
He said that while the CASO was in progress, the militants who were in a cave up the hill, opened fire at the forces.
“The fire was duly retaliated, triggering an encounter,” he said.
The encounter commenced about half an hour after the initiation of the CASO. Soon after the gunfight erupted, internet services were snapped in Tral and some adjoining areas. They were yet to be restored when this report was filed.
Two of the militants, as per sources, were killed in the early hours of the encounter and their bodies lay just outside the cave. The third militant engaged government forces in a day-long gunfight. As per local sources, helicopters were pressed into service to assist the ground troops.
“Firing continued throughout the day intermittently and ended somewhere between 4 and 5 PM,” local sources told Kashmir Reader.
The forces combed the area after the fire stopped coming from the militants’ side and retrieved three bodies.
Arms and ammunition has been recovered from the cave as well, details of which were yet to be given out by the police.
Satoora and Hajin are thinly populated areas, inhabited by the Gujjar community. However, the smaller number of inhabitants did not prevent protests from erupting around the site of the encounter. Many people came out and clashed with the government forces downhill, while the encounter continued on the hillock.
Forces used tear smoke shells to disperse the protestors. At least six people sustained minor injuries during these clashes.
The injured were rushed to the nearby Public Health Centre (PHC) at Aripal, from where they were discharged after first-aid.
Clashes also erupted in main town Tral amid a spontaneous shutdown. Local youths hurled stones at vehicles of government forces when they were on way to the site of the encounter.
An eerie calm prevailed in main town Tral when this report was being filed, as people waited for the identities of the militants to be ascertained and the bodies to be handed over. There were rumours that two of the militants were locals and had recently joined the militant outfit, and the third was a Pakistani national.