More than 100 injured, two houses blown apart; police say response of troops was ‘guarded’
Kundalan (Shopian): A Class 9 student died of a bullet wound to the head and at least 135 civilians were injured, seven by bullets and 128 by pellets – many in their eyes – as government forces opened fire at people during an “encounter” taking place in a dense locality in Kundalan village of Shopian district on Tuesday morning. Two houses were destroyed during the military operation that ended with the killing of two militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), one of them a recent recruit from a Shopian village and the other said to be a Pakistani. A junior commissioned officer (JCO) of the army and a jawan (soldier) were injured during the fierce gun battle that began in the pre-dawn hours.
Residents of Kundalan village told Kashmir reader that at about 2am in the night, they heard noises outside which they thought to be due to a raid by government forces. “At around 4:10am we heard the first exchange of gunfire. It was intense. We were eight family members and we had no other option than to lie down on the floor, amid huge blasts of ammunition and gun shots,” said Muhammad Lateef, whose house is situated only meters away from the house in which the militants were trapped.
One among the family members whose houses were destroyed told Kashmir Reader that they shouted to the government troops to let them come out of the house, but nobody listened to them. “I cried, begged for help. Instead of helping us out, one among the troops replied, ‘You die there, we don’t care’,” a lady whose house was destroyed during the gunfight said.
Villagers identified the two house owners whose houses were destroyed during the eight-hour-long gun battle as Muhammad Yoqub Parray, who has seven family members, and Muhammad Maqbool Parray. They said that the gunfight left both the families homeless.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Shopian, Dr Abdul Rasheed, told Kashmir Reader that a total of 123 injured persons were brought to different hospitals in Shopian district during the day, one among whom succumbed to his injuries while he was being shifted to a Srinagar hospital.
“We received 123 injured persons, among whom six were hit with bullets and the rest with pellets. All six with firearm injuries were referred to Srinagar hospitals and among the pellet injured, 17 were referred to Srinagar. Of them, 14 had pellet injuries in their eyes,” Dr Rasheed said.
The Medical Superintendent of District Hospital Kulgam told Kashmir Reader that a total of 13 injured persons were brought to the hospital, including one with a bullet injury. “We referred six persons to Srinagar hospitals. Most of the referred persons had pellet injuries in their eyes,” he said.
Three Hizb militants including Abbas Ahmad of Mantribug appeared at Kundalan village while the houses were burning.
Eyewitnesses told Kashmir Reader that the militants who got killed in the encounter had written, ‘Jaish-e-Mohammad Zindabad. Aap Salamat Raho’ (Long live Jaish-e-Mohammad, peace be upon you) on the walls of the house in which they died.
A statement issued by the police said, “Pursuing credible leads regarding the presence of terrorists in Kundallan area of District Shopian, a joint patrol of the security forces launched searches in the area in the wee hours today.
‘As the searches were going on, terrorists hiding inside the house fired upon the search party. The search party in their guarded response fired back thereby establishing contact with the terrorists leading to an encounter. Some of the civilians in the nearby houses were quickly evacuated by the security forces.
‘During the encounter all the hiding terrorists were eliminated successfully by the joint patrol of the security forces. The killed terrorists were identified as Sameer Ahmad Sheikh, a local, and Babar from Pakistan. They were affiliated with proscribed terror outfit JeM.
‘Sameer Ahmad Sheikh, son of Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh, resident Rawalpora Shopian, was a school dropout and had joined the terrorist outfit JeM after he was reported missing from his home since April 2018.
‘On the basis of documents available, the other terrorist has been identified as Babar, a JeM commander of Pakistan origin. They were involved in many attacks on the security establishments and civilian atrocities.
‘Some civilians were also injured in cross firing at the site of encounter, who were later evacuated to hospital for medical attention. One of the injured persons later succumbed to his injuries while the other injured are stated to be stable now.
‘Some arms & ammunition were also recovered from the encounter site.
‘Police has registered a case and investigation has been initiated in the instant matter.”