Mobile and telephone services snapped; schools, colleges and government offices closed
Sopore: Sopore town woke up on Saturday morning to a heavy battery of armed personnel, standing next to military vehicles and wearing battle gear at every nook and cranny. It was a curfew-like situation. Mobile telephony and internet services in north Kashmir had been suspended except of the BSNL network. People who stepped out of their homes were asked for their identity cards.
Suddenly, news spread that three Lashkar militants had been killed by government forces at Amargarh area of Sopore town, early Saturday morning.
A day before, in the evening of Friday, the security grid in Sopore town launched a search and cordon operation in the town’s outskirts, some two kilometers away from the encounter site at Amargarh. The CASO was on for about three hours before it was called off.
Two of the three militants killed at Amargarh have been identified as Javid Ahmad Dar, resident of Khanpora Baramulla, and Abid Hamid Mir, resident of Hajin, Baramulla. The identity of the third militant could not be ascertained immediately, which raised doubts among locals that he might be from Sopore itself.
The heavy deployment of government troops in Sopore made this doubt more acute. It led to the raising of slogans and throwing of stones in the streets of the old town area. Stone-pelting was also reported from near the bus stand, the Super Bazaar, and at the main chowk in the early hours of the day.
In the afternoon, the third militant was identified as Danish Showkat Dar, son of Showkat Ahmad Dar, resident of Mumkak, Batpora area of Sopore.
According to police, they launched a CASO along with army’s 52 RR and a CRPF battalion after receiving specific information about the presence of militants in Jamia Mohalla area of Sopore. Police said that the militants hiding there opened fire on the search party, triggering a gunfight in which three militants were killed and one policeman injured.
Three AK-74 rifles and magazines were recovered from the gunfight site, police said.
The house in which the militants were killed has sustained minor damage. The three militants had not gone inside the house and were killed in the veranda of the house. The owner of the house has been identified as Bashir Ahmad Ganaie, a fruit businessman, who was at police station Tarzoo when this correspondent visited his house.
According to the locals present at the encounter site, the first bullet shot was heard at around 3:30am. Then the gunfire lasted for more than an hour. The sound of bullets stopped at around 5am. All the family members had been safely evacuated before the gunfight was started.
The body of the slain local militant, Danish Dar, was handed over to his family at about 3pm. Thousands of people took part in his funeral prayers which were held in the historic Jamia Masjid of Sopore, amid tears and pro-freedom slogans. The body was buried in the local martyrs’ graveyard.
Traffic was completely off the roads. An undeclared shutdown was observed in Sopore town with reports of some minor clashes between youths and government forces.