Civilian killed in army firing at nearby village, 43 injured in clashes near encounter site
Shopian: Government forces won another major victory on Saturday as they killed five militants in a single operation, though six other militants including the most-wanted Pakistani militant Naveed Jutt reportedly escaped from the encounter site in Killora village of Shopian. Clashes near the site left 43 civilians injured as government forces fired bullets, pellets, and teargas shells to keep protestors at bay. One civilian was shot dead and another was critically wounded when army soldiers reportedly opened fire on the funeral procession of one of the slain militants at his native village of Ganowpora in Shopian district.
At Malikgund village, a kilometre from the encounter site at Killora, more than a dozen militants including Naveed Jatt appeared at the funeral of two local militants and offered them gun salute. Jatt and his fellow militants also appeared at another adjacent village, Losedenow, to offer gun salute at the funeral of another of the slain militants.
The house in which the militants were believed to be hiding is the residence of the Block Medical Officer, Zainapora, Dr Muhammad Yousuf. Family sources told Kashmir Reader that all inhabitants of the house were shifted to a nearby house by government forces till the conclusion of the gunfight.
The military operation started at about 6pm Friday evening when army soldiers from 44 RR (Rashtriya Rifles) laid a cordon around Killora village. The soldiers conducted door-to-door searches until militants hiding in one of the houses opened fire on the army search team, an army officer who was part of the Killora operation told Kashmir Reader.
The officer said that the army had information of presence of 11 militants, including Naveed Jatt, but six of them managed to give the slip to the soldiers.
The army officer said that Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Umar Malik was killed in the initial exchange of gunfire, after he ran out and fell into the Sangloo Nallah, a stream which flows adjacent to houses situated on the outskirts of Killora village.
Eyewitnesses said that soon after the first exchange of gunfire late Friday evening, more forces were called in for the operation, which ended at about 9AM in the morning with the killing of five militants. Eyewitnesses said that all the five militants, including Umar, were killed in an open area some 40 to 80 meters from the house they were apparently staying in for the past 24 hours.
Killora village is situated on the Shopian-Bijbehara road some four kilometres from the district headquarters. The house in which the militants were suspected to be hiding is situated about two meters from the main road.
One of the family members who were shifted out of the house told Kashmir Reader that after the first exchange of fire, an army team went to the house but found nothing. The family member said that the cordon remained intact with bright lights and concertina wires laid all around the house. After the initial exchange, there was no gunfire till the morning, he said.
A local resident, who said he was forced by the army to accompany them for a search of the house, said that sniffer dogs brought to the site in the morning led the army to the hiding place of militants. He added that there were 11 militants present there but six of them managed to escape.
There was minor damage to windowpanes and marks of bullets on the house, but no major damage to any property or portion of the house.
The police identified the slain militants as: Umar Nazir Malik, son of Nazir Ahmad Malik, resident of Malikgund village, affiliated with LeT and active since two years, believed to be the lone senior militant in the district; Arshid Ahmad Khan, son of Abdul Rasheed Khan, resident of Ganowpora, affiliated with LeT; Waqar Aslam, son of Muhammad Aslam Sheikh, resident of Malikgund affiliated with Al-Badr and active since a fortnight; and Aijaz Ahmad Paul, son of Abdul Rasheed Paul, resident of Losedenow village, affiliated with Al-Badr and active since three months; and Arif Ahmad Mir, resident of Yeend village in Pahalgam.
As protesting civilians clashed with government forces near the encounter site, 43 were left injured. “A total of 43 injured persons were brought to different health centres of the district,” Chief Medical Officer Shopian, Dr Abdul Rashid, told Kashmir Reader. “Among them, nine were referred to Srinagar-based hospitals. Two of them had bullet injuries and four had pellet injuries in their eyes,” he said.
He added that one person injured at Ganowpora was brought dead to Sub-District Hospital Shopian. He was identified as Bilal Ahmad Khan, resident of Kralcheck village in neighbouring Pulwama district. Another person injured at Ganowpora was brought to Primary Health Centre Brethipora, from where he was referred to a Srinagar hospital, Dr Rashid said.