After relentlessly searching orchards over several days, govt forces find what they were after in Shopian
SHOPIAN: Three militants including the brother of an IPS officer were killed on Tuesday in an encounter with government forces at Heff-Shirmal where militants were surrounded in an orchard hideout near Shirmal village. The slain militants were identified by police as Shams ul Haq, son of Abdul Rasheed Mangnoo; Amir Ahmad Bhat, son of late Abdul Aziz, resident of Chidipora village; and Shoaib Ahmad Shah, son of Ghulam Rasool Shah, resident of Shirmal.
All three of them had joined militant ranks last year, after the killing of 12 militants in a single day on April 1, 2018, in south Kashmir. Seven of these militants were killed inside Shams ul Haq’s house.
Today’s operation was conducted right after three militants were killed by government forces at their mountain hideout in Budgam district the previous day.
Police in a statement said that on receiving input about the presence of militants at Heff-Shirmal, a cordon and search operation was launched by a joint team of forces including army’s 44 RR, police, and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. The statement said that when searches were being carried out near a suspected spot, the militants hiding there fired upon the forces. Three militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen were killed in the operation, and arms and ammunition was recovered from their procession, the police said.
Locals of the village said that the forces carried out several searches in orchards around Heff-Shirmal villages in recent days. They said that the forces even brought bulldozers to raze down suspected hideouts and massive shelling was carried out in orchard and forest areas to locate the militants.
“Today in the wee hours we heard gunshots on the village outskirts. We were not aware about any encounter but later, after enquiring from locals, we heard that an encounter had started in an orchard,” said a local, wising anonymity.
He added that due to the continuous movement of government forces in the orchards, several people left their orchards without pruning the trees.
Villagers said that massive firing was heard in the morning and then a complete lull followed. Meanwhile, clashes erupted between forces and local youths. Witnesses said that several people sustained minor pellet injuries, which were treated locally.
Witnesses said that in the afternoon, the suspected hideout was blasted with the use of heavy explosives and by 4pm the forces withdrew from the area, fighting off protestors who engaged them in intense clashes.
One of the slain militants, Shams ul Haq, was brother of an IPS officer, Inam ul Haq, who is currently posted in northeast India. According to family sources, he joined militant ranks in May last year, a month after seven militants including his cousin Zubair Turay were killed in their house in an encounter on April 1. Locals believe that the killing of seven militants and a civilian in his house, including his cousin brother, became the trigger for Shams to plunge into militancy.
Before joining militant ranks, Shams was a BUMS student at the government college in Zakura Srinagar. Haq was 22 and is survived by parents, his elder brother who is an IPS officer, and another brother who is a lecturer in the government’s education department. Both of his elder brothers are married and their father is a landlord.
Shoaib Ahmad of Shirmal was active as a militant since November 2017, family sources said. He joined ranks after leaving education in Class 12. He left behind three elder brothers and two sisters. He was the eldest among the siblings and his father, Ghulam Rasool Shah, earns his livelihood through farming and labour. His younger siblings are studying in different schools in the area.
Amir Aziz was active from September 31, 2018, his family members said. He has left behind two elder brothers and five sisters. Before joining militant ranks he was studying in BA first year at a Bijbehara college in Anantnag district. Family members said that before joining militancy Amir was subjected to harassment by government forces. They said he was twice detained by police and ruthlessly beaten by them.
“When he came back home from torture centres, he was a changed person and not willing to stay at home. The tortures that police subjected him to were so severe that he chose the gun instead of studies,” a relative said.
Shams ul Haq had his home in Dragad locality of Sugan village, the same place where slain Al-Badr commander Zeenat-ul-Islam was buried last week.