Suhail A Shah/ Raashid Hassan
Anantnag/ Shopian: It was another bloody day in south Kashmir on Thursday as five militants and two civilians were killed during separate encounters in Pulwama and Shopian districts of south Kashmir. Two army soldiers also lost their lives and two others injured during the gunfights.
Three militants of the Jaish-e-Muhammad, including a long surviving Pakistani commander of the outfit, were killed along with an army soldier and a civilian – the son of the owner of the house where the militants were hiding – during a gunfight in Pulwama district on Thursday.
The brother of the slain civilian and two other army men were also injured during the gunfight, which started in the pre-dawn hours and ended at about 8:00 AM.
The slain militants have been identified as Naseer Ahmad Pandit of Kareemabad in Pulwama district; Umar Mir of Bathipora in Shopian district; and Pakistani national, Khalid Bhai.
Khalid had been active in Kashmir valley for the past 8 years, as per police sources. “His killing is being seen as a major victory for security forces,” a police source told Kashmir Reader.
The slain civilian was identified as Rayees Ahmad Dar, son of Jalal-ud-din Dar. His brother Younis Dar was also injured during the gunfight.
A senior police official from the area told Kashmir Reader that it was Jalal’s house where the militants were hiding.
“Initially, as the cordon was being laid and the militants were being asked to lay down their arms, they opened indiscriminate fire, which was duly retaliated. In this initial exchange of fire the army men and the civilians were injured,” the police official said.
He said that one army man and a civilian later succumbed to their injuries, while the other injured were undergoing treatment at different hospitals.
Bodies of the militants were later retrieved from the site of the gunfight and after proper identification the bodies of the two local militants were handed over to their families. The body of Khalid was taken to an undisclosed location for burial.
Thousands of people attended the funerals of the two militants and of the slain civilian, Rayees Ahmad, later in the day.
Internet services were suspended in Pulwama district soon after the gunfight erupted in the morning and remained snapped throughout the day.
Clashes erupted in many parts of the district through the day. There were no reports of anyone getting injured during these clashes.
In Shopian district, two militants affiliated with the Hizb ul-Mujahideen and a civilian were killed during a brief encounter at Hendew village. Witnesses said that the militants were killed in an orchard while trying to flee.
Initial reports said that three militants were killed in the encounter at Hendew, but in the evening police sources told Kashmir Reader that two militants and a civilian had been killed. The police sources identified the slain civilian as Ishtiaq Ahmad Bhat, son of Abdul Dawood Bhat, resident of Hendew. Locals said that they were brining Ishtiaq’s body home and he would be buried on Friday.
Both the slain militants were identified as residents of Shopian district: Yawar Ahmad Dar of Bandapoh village and Shakeel Ahmad Dar of Tukroo village.
An army soldier was also injured in the gunfight and was later shifted to 92 Base hospital in Srinagar where he succumbed to his injuries. Police said that arms and ammunition were recovered from the possession of the militants.
Yawar Ahmad Dar, son of Mushtaq Ahmad Dar, resident of Bandapoh, according to family sources was active from September 29, 2018. He has left behind his parents, younger brother, and sister. Family sources said that the slain was studying in the 2nd year of BA at Shopian degree college before joining militancy.
Shakeel Ahmad Dar, son of Abdul Ghani Dar, resident of Tukroo village, was active since only a month ago, family sources said.
A cordon and search operation was launched by a joint team of forces including army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles, central reserve police force (CRPF), and special operation group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police in the village after “specific inputs” about the presence of militants. Police sources said that the search party was fired upon when it was heading towards the suspected spot.
News of the gunfight brought hundreds of youths out to the streets. The youths pelted government forces with stones and the forces who hit back with tear smoke shells, pellets, and stun grenades. A youth was reportedly injured by pellets in his eye.
After today’s encounter, the toll of militants killed this year in Shopian district has reached 22.