3 houses set ablaze, dozens injured in clashes, another slain militant yet to be identified
BUDGAM: Pakistani militant and commander of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) Naveed Jutt was killed along with an associate by a team of army’s 35 RR and police’s SOG in Kutipora village of Budgam district in the wee hours of Wednesday.
The bodies of the duo were recovered from the debris of houses that were set ablaze by government forces during the operation. The houses where militants had taken shelter were in a congested area, so government forces did not use IEDs to blast the houses. Instead, three houses were set ablaze, following which the militants came out and were killed, witnesses said.
Only the body of Naveed Jutt could be identified while the identity of the other militant has not yet been established.
Senior Superintendent of Police Budgam Tijinder Singh said that the duo were killed after a team of 35 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) and special operations group (SOG) of police cordoned off the area on receiving inputs about presence of militants there.
In a statement, police said that the Cordon & Search Operation (CASO) was launched in the pre-dawn hours. As searches were going on, militants hiding in a house opened fire on the search party. The fire was retaliated and two militants were killed in the ensuing gunfight, police said.
Three army soldiers sustained injuries during the gunfight, the police statement added.
Talking to Kashmir Reader, locals who claimed to have witnessed the encounter narrated the sequence of events. “It was around 1am, we were quite asleep in our homes in Kuthpora village – located some 16 kilometers from Srinagar – when army movement was heard in the area,” a local youth said.
“Our village, which has about 150 households, is located just a kilometer away from the army camp at Chattergam on the Srinagar-Pulwama road,” he said. “As a carpenter – Ishfaq Ahmad Khan – had been killed near the army camp a week ago, we ignored the army movement and preferred not to go outside our homes.
“In the next few hours, heavy vehicles came and stopped close to our houses. Now we took it seriously and thought something unusual was going to happen. At around 5am in the morning, some gunshots were heard from nearby. They were followed by indiscriminate firing from both sides,” he said.
At dawn, news of the encounter spread like wildfire in the region, said another local, Arshad Ahmad. He said that many people came to the encounter site to help the trapped militants escape.
“They were confronted by government forces, and intense clashes ensued between local youths and the forces,” he said. “The youths pelted the government forces with stones and they retaliated by firing bullets, pellets and teargas shells.”
During the clashes, scores of youths sustained injuries. Among them a few sustained bullet injuries and some were by with pellets in eyes, locals said.
Block Medical Officer Chattergam, Dr Kousar, told Kashmir Reader that the number of injured persons was about 50.
“Almost 50-52 persons had sustained injuries during the clashes with government forces,” she said, adding that one person had bullet injury in the left thigh and was shifted to SKIMS Bemina for treatment. Those who were hit by pellets were referred to SMHS in Srinagar, she said.
Dr Kousar added that the hospital ambulance that was deputed to ferry the injured from the actual spot to the hospital was not allowed to move by government troops, who badly damaged the ambulance.
The encounter, according to witnesses, concluded at about 12 noon. Three houses were set ablaze by government forces during the encounter, witnesses said.
According to police, Jutt was a wanted for his complicity in a series of “terror crimes” including the killing of journalist Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar in June this year. He was also involved in attacks on security establishments and “many other civilian atrocities”, police said.
As per his earlier disclosure, police said, Naveed Jatt alias Hanzalla was born in Multan, Pakistan. He was part of the militant Ajmal Kasab group at a madrassa in Pakistan where he had undergone arms training.
As per police records, in October 2012, Naveed Jatt along with his associates crossed over into the valley of Kashmir. He had a long history of “terror crime records” since 2012, the police said.
Jutt was involved in the killing of a police ASI in Pulwama on May 2013, a series of grenade attacks on security forces, and in the killing of CRPF personnel at Awneera Shopian in August 2013, police said.
He was also involved in conspiring and executing several bank robberies and terror attacks in south Kashmir including the attack on Court Complex Pulwama in March 2014, in which two policemen were killed, police said.
He was also involved in the attack on polling staff in Shopian in April 2014 in which several civilians sustained injuries and one presiding officer, namely Zia-ul-Haq Wani, was killed, police said.
Jutt was involved in the attack on a police party at Bongam Shopian in June 2014 in which several civilians and policemen were injured, police said.
Jutt was apprehended by police in June 2014 but he managed to escape from custody in February 2018 while he was being taken to SMHS hospital for medical treatment from Central Jail Srinagar.
In a shootout that took place at the hospital, two policemen were killed.
Jutt also figured as a suspect in case FIR No. 51/2018 in police station Kothi Bagh pertaining to the assassination of Shujaat Bukhari and his security personnel, police said.
Police said that incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter in Budgam.
As Naveed Jatt is a Pakistani national, competent authorities in Govt of India shall be approached for taking up the matter with Pakistan for handing over his body to them, police said.
Meanwhile, a shutdown was observed in parts of Budgam and internet services remained barred throughout the day.