Sopore: Hizbul Mujahideen district commander Shahid Ahmad Sheikh was killed by government forces in a day-long gunfight that started early Saturday morning in Reban village, on the outskirts of Sopore town. Locals said that a few militants were successful in giving the slip to the forces with the assistance of people of Reban village.
The house in which the militant was hiding was fully damaged by a few blasts of IED.
Shahid Sheikh was a native of Kachloo village of Qaziabad in north Kashmir. Official sources said that a team of army’s 22 RR and Sopore police SOG launched the search operation during the night after receiving information about the presence of some militants in a house. They said that one militant inside the house fired on the search party, after which a gunfight ensued.
Sopore Superintendent of Police Sopore, Harmeet Singh told Kashmir Reader that after the cordon was laid around the house, the militant was asked through a civilian to surrender, but he refused and started firing on the government forces. After a long gunfight, he was killed in the afternoon. The SSP said that the slain militant was the Hizb’s district commander and was most active in the Sopore-Handwara region.
The SSP said that one AK 47 rifle, a few magazines and grenades and other ammunition was recovered from the possession of the slain militant. Police said the slain militant was earlier with Jaish-e-Mohammad and was now part of HM.
While the local militant was fighting the government forces, locals of the area made announcements through loudspeakers for people to come out and help the trapped militants. Several youths tried to march towards encounter site through different routes but were stopped by the heavy deployment of paramilitary forces at every entry and exit point of the village. Clashes between the youths and government forces ensued, with many teargas shells fired to disperse the agitated youth. While the gunfight was going on, residents of Reban village and adjacent areas managed to help some of the trapped militants escape, local sources said.
After the gunfight ended, when the forces were leaving the spot, stones were pelted by villagers on army and police which resulted in breaking of glasses of many government forces’ vehicles. Women in the village were seen chanting pro-freedom and pro-militant slogans.
While the gunfight was going on, classes in all educational institutions in Sopore were suspended and internet services shut down. Students came to know of it only when they reached their schools, as mobile phone service had been snapped.
Ghulam Mohiuddin, a shopkeeper in the Sopore market, whose daughter was sitting at his shop wearing school uniform, said that the frequent shutting of schools and internet was affecting the education of children and the business of shopkeepers.
A reporter of a local daily made a similar complaint. “Snapping of telephone and internet service before any encounter is making it difficult to pursue our professional duties, as we have to send the reports and photos to our office through the internet,” he said, requesting anonymity.
At the time this report was filed, the slain militant’s body had reportedly been handed over to his family. Thousands of people had already gathered in his native village and preparations for the funeral prayers were being made. The gathered people were shouting pro-freedom, pro-militant and anti-India slogans, according to reports received from the village.
This is the second encounter in Sopore in the past week. Two local militants were killed in an encounter on September 4.