Police say one of them was mastermind of 2014 Sopore IED blast in which four policemen were killed
Sopore: Sopore old town woke up on Thursday morning to a heavy battery of armed forces’ personnel, standing next to military vehicles and wearing battle gear at every nook and cranny. It was a curfew-like situation. Both public and private transport moving towards the main town was stopped and diverted or sent back. Internet services in Sopore police district were suspended except for BSNL broadband service. An order was passed by the Sopore administration that class work at educational institutions be suspended. People who stepped out of their homes were asked for their identity cards.
Late on Wednesday evening, government forces had launched a cordon and search operation (CASO) at Teliyan locality in Arampora area of Sopore town. Police said they had inputs of the presence of militants in the locality. As door-to-door searches were being carried out, militants from inside a house lobbed grenades at the troops. A brief exchange of gunshots ensued between militants and government forces during the night.
In the wee hours of Thursday, government forces evacuated civilians from the locality. Then, drones were put into service to trace out the hiding militants. Troops fired warning shots towards a suspected spot and the gunfight resumed.
Loud blasts and heavy firing continued for a couple of hours in the morning. News spread that two militants had been killed by government forces in Arampora area, both of them foreigners.
The day before, late in the evening on Wednesday, a group of masked militants had appeared in Harwan village of Sopore to give a gun salute to their slain associate Liyaqat Ahmad Lone. The masked militants fled from the spot after giving the gun salute.
In a statement issued by police today, they termed both the slain militants as residents of Pakistan, one of them the mastermind of the Sopore IED blast in January in which four policemen were killed.
“In Chankipora area of Arampora Sopore today, Sopore Police, 22 RR army and CRPF forces jointly launched a search operation based on credible inputs about the presence of militants in the area,” the police statement said.
“In the ensuing encounter, two militants were eliminated. Some arms, ammunition and incriminating material was recovered from the site of encounter,” the statement said.
“From the incriminating material recovered from the encounter site, the killed terrorists have been identified as foreigners from Pakistan, namely Ali alias Athar and Zia-ur-Rehman. They were affiliated with proscribed terror outfit JeM. Ali was one of the important commanders of JeM and was active since 2014. He was mastermind of the Sopore IED blast in which four policemen attained martyrdom. Besides, both of them were involved in attacks on security force establishments and civilian atrocities,” police said.
The house in which the militants were hiding sustained minor damage. After the militants escaped from that house, government forces killed them in a small patch of woods near the locality.
According to locals who live near the encounter site, the first exchange of gunshots was heard at about 3:30am. Then the gunfire stopped till morning. Sound of huge blasts and gunshots was heard again in the morning. All civilians living near the encounter site had been safely evacuated before the gunfight started, they said.
An undeclared shutdown was observed in Sopore town with reports of some minor clashes between youths and government forces today.
Amid the raging gunfight between militants and government forces in Sopore, scores of youth at different locations pelted stones on the deployed forces. To disperse them, the forces used tear gas shells.
The encounter ended at about noon with the killing of the two militants. Internet was still suspended in Sopore town when this report was filed in the evening.