Anantnag: On Sunday, October 21, at about 2:00 AM while most people in Kashmir were asleep, a contingent of government forces entered Laroo village in Kulgam district, stealthily.
One-and-a-half hour later, bursts of gunfire rattled the area. Nobody had the slightest inkling that the gunshots were just the beginning of one of the bloodiest weeks in Kashmir valley in the recent past.
Ever since those first gunshots in Laroo, 23 people have been killed, in different gunfights, across Kashmir valley. The slain include 13 militants, 7 civilians, and 3 army men. More than 50 others have been injured in this while.
That morning, as the villagers slept peacefully in Laroo, the forces cordoned off the house of a man named Sheeraz Ahmad Bhat. When the rattle of gunfire woke up the villagers at about 3:25 AM, the militants were trying to make a dash out of the house. They were unsuccessful. Restricted to the house, they kept the government forces engaged in gunfire for the next 6 hours. During these hours, the only sound that could be heard in the area was the rattle of automatic weapons and the loud bangs of explosives, used by government forces to blast the house from which the militants were fighting.
The terrified villagers could not communicate with one another as voice calling as well as internet services on their mobile phones were barred in the entire Kulgam district.
The guns fell silent at about 9:00 AM. News came that three militants of the Jaish-e-Muhammad, all locals, had been killed. The entire area went into mourning, knowing little that what was to follow was more deathly, and more tragic.
As the locals, at around 10:00 AM, descended upon the house of Sheeraz Ahmad, an unexploded shell went off. Seven civilians dead the same day of injuries sustained in the blast. Many other were injured.
The slain civilians included four students, one of them a 12-year-old. Ten funerals were held in different area of Kulgam district over the next two days.
The whole valley went into mourning. On Tuesday, a call for ‘Lal Chowk Chalo’ was given by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik.
Many tried to march towards Srinagar but the roads had been barricaded.
As the people were still recovering from the Kulgam bloodbath, another CASO was launched by government forces in the dead of night, this time at a village in Nowgam area on the outskirts of Srinagar.
By 6:30 of Wednesday morning, the gunfight that had erupted soon after the CASO was launched, ended. Two militants of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen had been killed, including Sabzar Sofi, the third PhD scholar-turned-militant to have been killed this year.
Both the slain militants belonged to Anantnag district in south Kashmir. Sofi’s home was in Sangam and Asif Gojri’s was in Khiram.
The news spread, despite a clampdown on internet, and by afternoon thousands had already reached Sangam and Khiram to participate in the funeral prayers of the slain militants.
In Sangam, top militants from across south Kashmir made an appearance at Sofi’s funeral, despite the fact that the site was only 200 meters from the National Highway-44, where hundreds of government troops, and top police officers, stood guard.
The militants offered a gun salute to the fallen ones, made speeches, and used a cane charge to control the crowd that wanted to get as close to the militants as possible.
Clashes erupted following the funeral. Several people were injured. People went home with the hope of witnessing a peaceful day tomorrow, which was not to be.
On Thursday morning, news came from Athoora, Kreeri, in Baramulla district, of yet another gunfight.
Two local militants of the Lashkar-e-Toiba—Minhaj ul Mohiuddin and Aqeel Ahmad Sofi—had been killed there.
The funerals of the two were held in their native villages later in the day, amid sloganeering and wails. People in south Kashmir heard about the killings through TV or radio, for the internet continued to remain barred.
People lamented the loss of lives and prayed for the bloodshed to be over, but the killings for the day were not yet over.
Late in the evening, another operation was launched by government forces in Arwini area of Anantnag district. There, some militants were visiting the house of a friend, Yazil Makroo, who had been killed in the Laroo encounter on Sunday.
The forces cordoned off Kharpora area in Arwini and the initial exchange of gunfire left three militants dead. Another fought for a while but was killed soon. All this happened amid intense stone-pelting by local people, who tried to reach the encounter site and save the militants.
The slain militants were Owais Lone of Havoora, Amir Tantray of DH Pora, Muzammil Magray of Aharbal—all in Kulgam district, and Sahir Makroo of Arwini in Anantnag district.
The Arwini gunfight was in concluding stages when militants late Thursday evening attacked an army camp in Lurgam village of Tral. An army man was killed in the attack and another one was grievously injured.
Friday witnessed yet another round of funerals and wreath-laying ceremonies, in south Kashmir and in Srinagar, in that order. But the day also marked yet another encounter, this time in Pazalpora village of Sopore in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
Two militants of Pakistani origin were killed—Abu Maaz and his associate Zubair.
The forces termed the killing of Maaz as an important success, as he had been active in the area for the past four years and was thought to be the brain behind revival of militancy in the northern area.
Also, on Friday, another army man—who the army said was injured in a stone-pelting incident in Anantnag on Thursday—succumbed to his injuries at the army hospital in Srinagar.
A Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officer Rajendra Prasad killed in a militant attack in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, two CASOs were launched in Shopian and Kulgam districts of south Kashmir. Clashes erupted at both the places and left nearly four-dozen civilians injured.