Associate slain as well; 46 injured in clashes; militants offer gun salute at funeral attended by thousands
Anantnag: In an early morning gunfight in the outskirts of Anantnag town, government forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen’s deputy commander in Kashmir, Altaf Kachroo, along with an associate of his, Umar Rashid Wani from Khodweni Kulgam, on Wednesday.
Clashes in parts of Kulgam district left at least 46 civilians injured, most of them with pellets, following the killing of the militants.
Deputy to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s Kashmir commander Riyaz Naikoo, Altaf Kachroo was a native of Hawoora village in Kulgam district. His full name was Altaf Ahmad Dar and he was also known by the alias Moin. He had been an active militant since early 2012 and was one of the most-wanted militants in Kashmir. He was a student before he joined militant ranks.
Along with Kachroo was killed Umar Rashid Wani, who had joined militants only a year ago. He came from a “family of militants”. More than half a dozen persons in his extended family have become militants and have been killed over the past three decades.
Kachroo’s father was also killed in the ’90s while he was trying to cross over to Pakistan for arms training.
Police have blamed Kachroo for a number of attacks on military installations and civilians in the past few years.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) SP Pani confirmed the killings while talking to Kashmir Reader. “Yes, these are the two militants who have been killed today,” Pani said.
The encounter took place in Muniwad village on the outskirts of main town Anantnag. A senior police official from the area told Kashmir Reader that a Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) was launched in the village at about 2:00 AM.
“The militants were hiding in a house and at about 6:00 AM, when our men were approaching the house, the militants opened indiscriminate fire,” the official said, adding that the fire was retaliated.
“The exchange of fire continued for about 4 hours before both Kachroo and Wani were killed,” the official said. “We have retrieved their weapons and their bodies as well.”
Minor clashes were reported from around the encounter site during the day. The authorities had imposed strict restrictions in and around Anantnag town and in parts of Kulgam to restrict any movement towards the site of the gunfight.
Mobile internet services were snapped to prevent circulation of news and rumours regarding the encounter. Train services on the Banihal-Srinagar track remained suspended throughout the day.
Despite the restrictions, intense clashes erupted in Khodweni and Qaimoh areas of Kulgam district – the native places of the slain militants – leaving at least 46 civilians injured.
A health official confirmed the number of injured. “Yes, we received 46 injured during the day. Most of them had pellet injuries,” the official told Kashmir Reader, adding that 6 of them had pellet injuries in the eyes.
The ones with pellet injuries to their eyes were later shifted to Anantnag district hospital.
“Three of them have been shifted to Srinagar for specialised treatment,” the health official said.
Later in the day, as the bodies of the militants were handed over to the families, thousands reached Khodweni area to attend the funeral prayers of the slain.
Local sources said that a joint funeral was held for both the militants.
“There were several rounds of funeral prayers as people kept pouring in from different villages and far-off places,” a local source said.
Militants, four to six in number, appeared during the funeral and offered several rounds of gun salute to their fallen associates.
Meanwhile, restrictions were lifted from some places but a shutdown continued in Anantnag and Kulgam districts.
Mobile internet services were yet to be restored when this report was filed.