Scholar-turned-militant killed in Nowgam gunfight

Scholar-turned-militant killed in Nowgam gunfight
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Another militant from Anantnag also slain

Srinagar: Two militants from Anantnag, among them Sabzar Ahmad Sofi who, like Mannan Wani, was a PhD scholar when he took up arms, were killed and six army men were injured in a fierce gun battle at Nowgam on the outskirts of Srinagar. The overnight gunfight prompted authorities to close schools and snap internet services from early morning Wednesday.
Sabzar Ahmad Sofi and Asif Ahmad Shergojiri, both residents of Anantnag, were affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen, police said. DIG Central Kashmir VK Birdi told Kashmir Reader that the house in which the militants were hiding belonged to a south Kashmir resident.

  • Sabzar Sofi was PhD scholar when he joined Hizb in 2016
  • Asif Shergojri joined Hizb in January this year
  • Police say Sabzar was involved in killing of civilian woman in Batpora
  • Six army men wounded, house blasted during gunfight
  • Massive clashes after encounter in several areas

“He was not living there and had rented out the house,” Birdi said.
Sofi, as per locals, was a PhD scholar when he joined militant ranks two years ago. As per sources and eyewitnesses, the militants were killed in a six-hour-long gun battle that started at about 1.30am with a sudden ringing out of gunfire which frightened people in the dead of night.
“The heavy exchange of firing continued till 7.30am. Everyone in the close vicinity was shivering with fear,” said a local.
A resident of Shankerpora area said that government forces blasted the house several times during the night. The loud explosions shook the entire Nowgam area and its adjoining localities, he said.
“It was a nightmare for all of us. Several houses were damaged due to the explosions and intense firing,” he said.
DIG Birdi said that a joint party of police and army’s 50 RR launched a cordon and search operation after midnight in Wanabal area of Nowgam and adjoining areas after specific “intelligence input” about the presence of militants there.
“The militants were hiding in a two-storey residential house. When we were searching the area around it, they opened fire from inside and threw grenades towards our men, which started the gunfight. The operation continued for the whole night till the holed-up militants were killed in the morning,” Birdi said.
Birdi refused to divulge details about the possible plans of the militants. “It’s a matter of investigation. I can’t tell you at this time what was their intention,” he said.
Massive clashes broke out in the area in the morning when several youths tried to disrupt the operation. The clashes continued till evening and the stone-pelting youths were countered by heavy teargas shelling.
“The areas where clashes broke are Nowgam Chowk, Methan, Aribagh and Wanabal. The protestors were trying to block the Srinagar-Jammu highway,” said an official.
After the widespread clashes, the district administration closed all schools and educational institutions in the city as a precautionary measure. Internet services on mobile phones were also snapped.
Police said Sabzar Ahmad Sofi, son of Bashir Ahmad Sofi, resident of Naina Sangam in district Anantnag, had joined militant ranks in 2016.
“He was involved in several attacks on security establishments and many other civilian atrocities in district Anantnag,” police said.
They said Sofi was involved in many cases including FIR No. 22/2018 under Section 13 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act at Police Station Bijbehara.
“Sabzar Ahmad was involved in killing of one civilian lady, namely Biba, wife of Mohammad Yousuf Matto, resident of Naina Batapora, on the evening of 28-10-2016,” police said in a statement.
Asif Ahmad Shergojiri alias Khubaib, son of Ali Mohammad Shergojiri, resident of Khiram Anantnag, had joined militant ranks this year in January. Police said he was actively involved in attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities in the area.
“He was involved in many terror cases and the prominent cases include FIR No. 04/2018 under Section 13 ULAP Act registered at Police Station Srigufwara and FIR No. 15/2018 under Section 15/2018 and Sections 451, 392, 506 RPC, 7/25 Arms Act, registered at Police Station Srigufwara,” police said in a statement.
Police said that the standard operating procedure (SOP) was followed during the encounter and no collateral damage took place.
“Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter,” police said.
The police also requested people not to enter the encounter site as such an area can prove dangerous due to uncleared explosive materials. “People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitised and cleared of all the explosives materials, if any,” the police statement read.