Militant from Pulwama also killed, several houses damaged in Nawkadal’s Kanemazaar
Srinagar: Junaid Ashraf Khan alias Junaid Sehraie, son of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Mohammad Ashraf Sehraie, was killed along with a fellow Hizbul Mujahideen militant from Pulwama, identified as Tariq Ahmad Sheikh, in an encounter with government forces in downtown Srinagar on Tuesday.
The duo was trapped in the congested neighbourhood of Nawakadal’s Kanemazaar. Police and paramilitary forces had to blast the house where militants had taken shelter. The entire house was reduced to rubble.
The nearly 10-hour-long encounter started on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday, hours before the time of Sehri, the pre-dawn meal in the holy month of Ramzan.
Eyewitnesses said that the encounter started around 2am after a search operation was launched by JK Police and paramilitary CRPF.
A policeman and paramilitary personnel were injured and a dozen residential houses were damaged during the encounter. Many videos and photos on social media showed the damaged houses with women wailing at the loss of their homes and property.
“The two terrorists were killed in an encounter which started in the evening, after government forces received information about their presence,” Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh told reporters.
“The first thing we did in the morning was to evacuate the inmates. In that process, two forces personnel—one from CRPF and another from J&K Police’s SoG were injured. In the final assault on the militants, the remaining militant hurled a grenade in which two CRPF men sustained injuries. But all the injured are stable,” Singh said.
He identified the slain duo as Junaid Sehraie of Srinagar and Tariq Ahmad Sheikh, who joined militants in March, of Pulwama. Singh said that both the militants were Hizbul Mujahideen affiliates and Junaid was divisional commander of the Hizb.
“Junaid’s activities revolved around Budgam, Pulwama, Shopian, and Srinagar. He had six criminal cases registered against him,” Singh added.
Junaid did a master’s in business administration from Kashmir University before he joined militant ranks in March 2018. The 32-year-old had left home after offering Friday prayers at Wazir Khan Masjid in Baghat Barzulla, where he lived. His father had termed Junaid’s decision “his choice” and rejected police’s requests that he appeal to his son to return.
This is the first gunfight in Srinagar since October 2018 when two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants, including commander Mehraj-ud-din Bangroo, and a civilian were killed.
The government suspended mobile internet and all phone networks except landlines and postpaid connections of BSNL in Srinagar.
With the latest killing of two militants, there are about 14 militants active in central Kashmir out of a total 240 in Kashmir Valley, Singh said.
Junaid is the most prominent militant killed after Hizb’s operational commander Riyaz Naikoo was killed in the first week of May this year.
Government forces have killed 73 militants this year, so far, while 95 militants and their associates have been arrested in Jammu and Kashmir.