Bijbehara: In a pre-dawn gunfight, six militants, one of them accused of killing journalist Shujaat Bukhari, were killed y government forces in Satkipora village on the outskirts of Bijbehara town, here in Anantnag district on Friday.
Four among the slain militants belonged to Lashkar-e-Toiba and two to Hizbul-Mujahideen. One of them was the district commander of the Hizbul for Anantnag.
The slain militants have been identified as Azad Malik alias Daada of Arwini Bijbehara; Unais Shafi Bhat of Takia Bal, Bijbehara (district commander of the Hizb); Firdaus Ahmad Mir of Pulwama (district commander of Lashkar); Basit Ahmad Mir of Khannabal, Anantnag (Lashkar operative); Shahid Ahmad Malik of Sangam Anantnag; and Atif Hassan Najar of Waghama, Bijbehara (of Hizb).
The police have termed the killing of the militants as a huge success. The operation is being described as “one of the most successful this year.”
As per sources in the police, Azad Malik, a close associate of Pakistani Lashkar commander Naveed Jutt, had joined the Lashkar in December 2016 and quickly risen in the ranks to become one of the most-wanted militants in Kashmir.
Police had accused Malik and Jutt of assassinating senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari outside his office in Srinagar on June 14 this year.
A senior police official told Kashmir Reader that an operation was launched at about Thursday midnight following strong inputs regarding presence of militants in the area.
“They were conducting a meeting in the area and we had leads that they will be present in an orchard,” the official said, adding that the area was cordoned off and all escape routes sealed.
At about 2:00 AM, a local source told Kashmir Reader, the first gunshots were heard in the area.
“Then there was intense firing till about 5 in the morning,” he said.
The police official seconded the locals’ version and told Kashmir Reader that the militants opened fire at about 2:00 AM, in a bid to make an escape.
The fire, he said, was retaliated and the militants were pushed back to the shed where they were hiding.
“In the subsequent gunfight, all six militants were killed,” the official said, adding that a few more hours were taken to retrieve the bodies from the site of the gunfight.
The official termed the operation as a very clean one, “with no collateral damage or clashes, whatsoever.”
Later in the day, the bodies, after completion of identification and medico-legal formalities, were handed over to the families.
The authorities in a bid to stop movement of people in Anantnag district closed many roads leading to the villages of the slain militants. Despite the curbs, thousands thronged these villages and participated in funeral prayers of the slain militants.
Clashes erupted in some parts of Anantnag district where local youth threw stones at the deployed government forces, who in return fired tear smoke shells and also aerial gunshots.
No one was reported injured during these clashes.
Meanwhile, authorities snapped mobile internet services across Anantnag district soon after the gunfight began. The services were disabled in other parts of south Kashmir as well later in the day.
Train services on the Srinagar-Banihal track were suspended for the entire day.