SHOPIAN: As happened in Khudwani in Kulgam, militants escaped after exchange of gunfire for about four hours in Turkwangam village of Shopian on Wednesday night. A house was completely razed to ground and two houses and two cowsheds were heavily damaged during the gunfight. A teenage boy had been killed and at least 25 wounded on Wednesday evening after government forces fired bullets and pellets at people protesting near the gunfight site.
According to the Shopian police, an army patrol was attacked by militants in Turkwangam village after which a search operation was launched and the militants located. “The militants took shelter in a residential house. The encounter ended after militants escaped under the cover of darkness,” a top police officer in Shopian told Kashmir Reader.
Locals of Turkwangam village said that the militants escaped soon after the initial exchange of fire, but despite that the government forces destroyed three residential houses and two cowsheds.
“I saw them escaping when I was taking refuge near a house. But later I saw that three houses and two cowsheds were destroyed,” a resident of the village said.
Shopian Senior Superintendent of Police Shailendra Kumar Mishra refuted the allegations saying that gunfire had come from the houses that were destroyed. He said the militants took advantage of the darkness and the public protests to make their escape from the houses.
He added that there were protests from every side of the encounter site.
The neighbours living near the destroyed houses alleged that government forces looted their gold ornaments. “They looted gold ornaments worth Rs 3 lakh from my house,” a neighbour said.
Another neighbour, Abdul Rasheed Lone, said that Rs 1.5 lakh worth of gold ornaments were looted from his house.
The SSP said that people must come to the police for lodging FIR on these allegations, after which “the matter will be investigated.”
Muhammad Yousuf Lone, whose house suffered major damage, said that gold ornaments were stolen from his house. Lone said he is a government servant and works in the Fire and Emergency Services.
Bashir Ahmad Lone, who works in the police department as sub-inspector, said government forces assaulted him, his brother, and his father. He said he was on vacation at home on the day when government forces barged into his house at night and beat him and his family members ruthlessly. He said his family members took him to hospital for treatment.
Window panes of a dozen houses in the area were allegedly damaged by government forces, locals said.
According to locals, as many as five militants were present in the area when the exchange of gunfire took place.
Residents of Turkwangam village said it was the first time that a gunfight had taken place in their village. “Several militants from our village have been killed in the past in different parts of Kashmir, but militants here always managed to escape. This was the first time that exchange of gunfire took place here. Never has any local or foreign militant been killed here,” an elderly villager said.