Owner of house, policeman killed during gunfight; 20 injured, 9 with bullets, in clashes
Anantnag: Four militants of an outfit affiliated to the global Islamist militant organisation, the Islamic State (IS), were killed by government forces in a fierce gunfight in Srigufwara area of Anantnag district Friday morning, police said.
The owner of the house in which the militants were holed up was also killed during the gunfight, as was a policeman. More than 20 persons were injured when government forces fired bullets, pellets and tear smoke shells at people trying to reach the gunfight site in a bid to help the militants escape.
At least nine among the injured have bullet wounds, hospital authorities said.
The four militants killed in the encounter, police said, belong to the Tehreek ul Mujahideen (TuM). They were identified as Dawood Ahmad Sofi of Srinagar, Majid Manzoor Dar of Pulwama, Adil Rehman Bhat of Anantnag, and Muhammad Ashraf Ittoo of Anantnag.
Both Bhat and Ittoo were pursuing an engineering degree before they decided to pick up arms. Ittoo, as per police sources, was earlier associated with the Zakir Musa-led Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, while Dar was associated with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) before switching allegiance to the TuM.
The slain policeman has been identified by police as Ashiq Hussain. The civilian owner of the house who was killed has been identified as Muhammad Yousuf Rather.
Yousuf’s wife, Rafeeqa Begum, also sustained a bullet injury during the encounter and is being treated at a Srinagar hospital.
The encounter began at about 6:00 AM in Nowshehra village near Khiram in Srigufwara, soon after a huge contingent of government forces reached the area.
A senior police official told Kashmir Reader that there were specific inputs regarding presence of militants in the area, following which an operation was launched.
“As the joint patrol made an advance towards the suspected house, terrorists hiding inside fired indiscriminately, in which a policeman and a civilian were injured. They later succumbed to their injuries,” the police official said.
He said that subsequently, more civilians were injured and were shifted to hospital.
The locals whom Kashmir Reader talked to said that there were no announcements made, either for the militants or the family living in the house, after the forces arrived early morning.
“We were jolted by gunfire. Most of us did not even know there was a cordon in the area,” a local said.
The locals said they were not sure whose gunfire killed the civilian and injured his wife.
“Most of the people were not out by then. We only heard gunshots and then rushed out. We were not allowed to go near the site of the gunfight,” the locals said.
The slain Rather’s son, Sayar Ahmad, has been detained by the forces, as per locals. Sayar has not been able to attend the funeral of his father.
“Neither was he able to attend to his injured mother in Soura (hospital). We have approached the police for his release but he is yet to be released,” villagers whom Kashmir Reader talked to said.
During the gunfight, which lasted several hours, at least three residential houses and a cowshed were damaged by intense shelling done by government forces.
As the gunfire continued, hundreds of people from the village and other parts of Anantnag district marched towards the site of the encounter. The government forces used bullets, pellets and tear smoke shells to disperse the protestors, leaving at least 20 injured.
The injured were rushed to different hospitals including the Anantnag district hospital, the sub-district hospital in Bijbehara, and a local hospital in Srigufwara.
“At least ten people had bullet injuries and one of them succumbed to his injuries. Rest had pellet or tear smoke shell injuries,” a senior district health official told Kashmir Reader.
He said that nine people were referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment.
“We are told that one youth, Obaid, is in critical condition. He was shot in the neck and was referred to Srinagar from Anantnag district hospital,” the health official said.
Locals also alleged that government forces resorted to widespread vandalism of property in the area.
Later in the evening, bodies of the militants were handed over to their respective families.
Thousands of people attended the funeral prayers of the militants in Pulwama and Srigufwara. They were yet to be buried while this report was being filed.