In Shopian, 12 militants, all likely to be locals, killed along with 4 civilians, 3 soldiers; another local militant killed in Anantnag; clashes leave 50 hit by bullets, 100 by pellets; Lt Gen AK Bhatt says killing of Lt Umer Fayaz ‘avenged’
Wasim Khalid/ Raashid Hassan
Awantipora/Shopian: Shopian turned into a battle zone on Sunday and its earth lay drenched in blood as a dozen militants, seven of them identified as locals and five others yet to be identified, were killed in two separate operations at Dragad and Kachdoora villages.
Three army soldiers and a civilian lost their lives in the Kachdoora operation and the civilian owner of the house at Dragad being killed along with the militants, and then two civilians were shot dead, 50 hit by bullets, and another 100 injured by pellets when government forces opened fire on protesting crowds and at the funeral procession of a militant. Another militant, also a local, was killed in an overnight operation at Pyeth Dialgam in Anantnag district, taking the day’s death toll to 20, so far.
The General Officer Commanding 15 Corps, Lt Gen AK Bhat, termed the killings of militants as a “special day for counter-terror operations”.
The deaths began with the killing of 21-year-old Rouf Bashir Khanday, a resident of Dahruna village in Anantnag district, who went missing from home on March 8 this year. On March 27, a poster appeared saying Khanday had joined Hizbul Mujahideen. He was killed past Saturday midnight, when army and police trapped him in a house in Pyeth Dialgam. Government forces used explosives to burn down the house. A car and bike parked in the courtyard were also charred due to the explosives. Police said that Khanday was killed in the encounter and an associate of his was caught alive. The encounter ended at about 3am Sunday morning.
After police handed over Khanday’s body to his family, his body was draped in the Pakistan flag and thousands of people attended his funeral.
Meanwhile in Dragad village of Shopian, another gunfight had started in the wee hours of Sunday. Seven local militants and the civilian who owned the house where the militants were trapped were killed in this encounter. Locals of the area said that they heard gunshots in the wee hours at Dragad village. They said that the operation lasted for just an hour. The house in which the militants were trapped had minor damages on windows and windowpanes, but bullets had peppered the walls. Locals said that most of the militants were killed outside the house. There were only a few houses in the area where the gunfight took place.
All the seven slain militants were identified as locals: Zubair Ahmad Turay, resident of Bonbazar area of main town Shopian; Nazim Nazir Dar, resident of Nagbal village of Shopian; Rayees Ahmad Thoker of Paderpora, Shopian; Ubaid Shafi Malla of Trenz village, Shopian; Adil Ahmad Thoker of Homhuna village, Shopian; Yawar Ahmad Yatoo of Safnagri village, Shopian; and Ishfaq Ahmad Malik of Pinjora village, Shopian.
When the body of Zubair was being taken to the Eidgah, the procession was intercepted by government forces. The forces fired bullets in the air and pellets and tear gas canisters at the mourners. The sudden assault caused a stampede which caused more injuries.
The fiercest gunbattle of the day was witnessed in Kachdoora village of Shopian. It started at midnight and continued till Sunday evening. The operation ended with the killing of five militants, three soldiers and a civilian, Mehrajudin. The house from which militants were fighting was blasted to rubble by government forces. Eyewitnesses said that two local militants were retrieved alive from the rubble.
The identity of the militants killed in Kachdoora was being ascertained, police said.
Two more civilians were killed during protests that broke out against the killing of militants. One of them was identified as Muhammad Iqbal of Khasipora. The identity of the other civilian was yet to be ascertained.
The seven local militants killed in Dragad and the two civilians killed during the two operations were laid to rest in their ancestral villages amid pro-freedom and pro-Pakistan slogans. Tens of thousands of people attended the funerals.
Giving details about the injured civilians, a doctor at Shopian district hospital told Kashmir Reader that 27 persons were referred to Srinagar hospitals, among whom seven had bullet injuries and 20 had pellet injuries.
A health official in Kulgam said that a total of 23 injured persons were brought to the district hospital. “16 persons with bullet injuries were brought to the hospital, among whom one was brought dead. Four injured were treated at the hospital while 11 were referred to hospitals in Srinagar. The condition of three persons was critical. Seven persons with pellet injuries were brought, one of whom was referred to Srinagar and the others were treated here,” he said.
At Pulwama hospital, three pellet injured were brought. Doctors at Harmain hospital in Shopian said 16 injured persons were brought, among them four with firearm injuries and 12 with pellet injuries. They said that all the four who had bullet injuries were referred to Srinagar hospitals and one who had sustained pellet injury in the eyes was also referred to Srinagar.
In total, about 50 people sustained bullet injuries while more than 100 were injured due to pellets, according to doctors.
Residents of different villages of Shopian said that the roads at night were full of convoys of vehicles of various government forces. A policeman, who was accompanied by a battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), said, “We reached here at about 3am in the night from Pulwama.” He said it was a big operation and that was why forces were called from Pulwama.
Clashes between people and government forces started early in the morning in Dragad, in which more than 20 persons were injured with pellets and two with bullets. Both the persons injured by bullets were referred to Srinagar after initial treatment at PHC (public health centre) Zainapora.
Giving details about the encounter, Director General of Police SP Vaid tweeted that 13 militants were killed.
Earlier, holding a presser at the army’s Victor Force headquarters, General Officer Commanding 15 Corps, AK Bhat, termed the killings of militants as a “special day for counter-terror operations”.
He said that that two militants among the seven militants killed in Dragad were involved in the killing of Lt Umer Fayaz, who was abducted from a marriage ceremony last year and then killed.
“We have avenged his death,” Bhat said. He was accompanied at the presser by senior military brass, DGP SP Vaid and other police officers.
The two militants who killed Lt Umar were identified as Ishfaq Malik and Raees Reyaz Thoker, both killed at Dragad.
The GOC said that forces will carry out “kinetic operations” against anybody who will use weapons.
Speaking to media, DGP Vaid said that the separate gunbattles in south Kashmir started after midnight at three places.
“The number of militants could rise after the rubble of the house is removed,” Vaid said of the Kachdoora encounter.
He said that two army personnel were killed during the Kachdoora encounter. Later, a police official said one more army personnel succumbed to his injuries.
Vaid said that in the Dialgam encounter, one militant was killed while another was apprehended alive. “The SSP Anantnag made a special effort to make the militant (Khanday) surrender. He brought the militant’s family members so as to persuade him to drop the gun. The exchange of talks continued for 30 minutes. The militant did not heed to the advice and instead fired. The forces had no option but to retaliate,” Vaid said.
He said that at Dagad, in a “swift operation”, seven militants were killed. “Unfortunately, the house owner was also killed during the encounter,” Vaid said.
“A few JK Police, CRPF, and army personnel also suffered injuries. 25 civilians sustained injuries, six of them have bullet wounds,” Vaid said.
Vaid said it was painful to witness the loss of young lives in Kashmir. “I appeal to the parents that they should convince their sons to shun the path of violence,” he said.
Inspector General of CRPF (Operations) Zulfiqar Hasan said that the paramilitary will not shy away from taking action against protesters if they continue to throng to encounter sites. “We are handling crowds with restraint,” he said. “We have witnessed these protests and stone-pelting has increased at the encounter sites.”