Police say civilian’s house was hideout of militants, family alleges he was killed in cold blood
SHOPIAN: A 32-year-old construction worker, whom the police described as being involved in a “terrorist related incident” fourteen years ago in 2004, was killed along with a local militant in an encounter on Saturday evening in Gagren village in Khudpora area of Shopian district.
The slain militant was identified as Irfan Ahmad Bhat, a native of Bandzoo village in Pulwama district who was currently living in Shopian district’s Gund-Hadov village. The slain civilian was identified as Shaheen Ahmad, son of Manzoor Ahmad Mir, resident of Gagren village.
Police said that two militants had escaped from the encounter site as blood trails were found leading away from the house. Police said that the slain militant Irfan belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen and the house where the encounter took place, the house in which Shaheed Ahmad lived, contained a “hideout” of militants.
The family of Shaheen Ahmad however alleged that Shaheed was killed in cold blood by government forces. “He left home to go to the market but was caught on the way by government forces. They put him in a vehicle and we thought he was in their custody,” Shaheen’s brother said.
Heema Jan, the widowed wife of Shaheen, rued that there was no one now to take care of their five-year-old son. “They took away all my hopes. I have no one to take care of me and my son now,” she said.
Heema Jan said that her family was living separately from Shaheen’s father’s family in a newly built house in Gagren village. She said that Shaheen was doing construction work for earning a livelihood since years. “He had no contact with militants, nor was he involved in anything like stone-pelting. All that he was doing was construction work, like laying of concrete slabs,” she said.
Family members of Shaheen said they went to police station Shopian to know the whereabouts of Shaheen after government forces took him into custody. They were told to visit the district police lines. “When we reached there, we found our son dead,” said a relative of Shaheen.
He said that Shaheen’s body had bullet marks on the chest, head, and back.
The locality of Gagren village where the encounter took place is situated on a mountain pass, where half a dozen houses are constructed on the mountain slope. The house of Shaheen is situated on top of the hill, with no residential houses around.
There were blood stains on the fresh snow at two different places, one on the western site of Shaheen’s house, and the other on the eastern side of the house for a distance of hundred meters from the house.
Shaheen was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard at Gagren village where hundreds of mourners attended the funeral prayers, despite the roads being closed due to snowfall. Multiple rounds of funeral prayers were offered to the slain.
Thousands of mourners attended the funeral prayers of the slain militant Irfan at Gund-Hadov village in Shopian district. Irfan was laid to rest on Sunday afternoon after a delay caused by residents of Bandzoo wanting to take the body to Irfan’s native village there.
“In the end, they accepted that he should be buried at Gund-Hadov,” a local said. He said that Irfan was 19.
The slain militant, according to family members, was living at Khudpora at his maternal grandparents’ home since the divorce of his mother. They said that Irfan was active since June 2017 when he left his education and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Villagers told Kashmir Reader that a cordon by a joint team of government forces was laid around Gagren village at about 3pm on Saturday. They said that despite heavy snowfall, a tight cordon was laid all around.
“We heard several gun shots at 7:10pm in the village. Then followed a lull on both sides which lasted till the cordon was lifted from the area,” a local resident said.
In a statement issued on Sunday, police said that security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Khudpora area of Shopian district on Saturday evening based on “credible inputs about the presence of terrorists in the area.”
“As the search operation was going on, hiding terrorists fired on the search party. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter,” the police statement said.
“Following the SOP, civilians from the nearby area were evacuated to safer places. In the ensuing encounter, hiding terrorists fired on security forces. Consequently, post encounter during the search two dead bodies were recovered from the site of encounter. The killed terrorist has been identified as Mohd Irfan Bhat of Pulwama who was associated with HM terror outfit since June 2017. The other one was identified as Shahid Mir who as per police records was part of case FIR 201/2004 under Section 7/25 Arms Act of police station Shopian for terrorist related incident. A couple of terrorists managed to escape from the site as blood trails have been seen at the site,” the police statement said.
“Moreover, the house where the encounter took place is intact albeit a hideout was found inside the house where terrorists were hiding. Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter. Police has registered a case and initiated investigation in the instant matter for ascertaining the facts pertaining to terrorists hiding in the said house and other related matters to this incident,” the police statement said.
“Citizens are once again requested not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials. People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosives materials if any,” the statement added.