Choppers used in operation, exchange of fire ‘at close quarters’
Anantnag: Police on Saturday said that three militants of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) were killed in a encounter in the forest area of Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
Initially only, one was identified as Wakeel Shah by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar.
Kumar alleged that Shah was involved in the killing of a BJP leader, Rakesh Pandita. Pandita was shot dead on June 2 in Tral area.
“Identity of the other two is being ascertained,” Kumar said.
In the evening, police identified the two slain as Abdul Hamid Chopan whose son Adil chopan was also a militant, killed in an encounter in year 2017, and Illyas Najar son of Manzoor Najar of Khellan Pulwama
The gunfight took place in Nagbearan forest area of Tral on Saturday morning, police said. The area, a senior police official said, was cordoned off by forces at about 7:00 AM following specific inputs regarding the presence of militants in the area.
“Sensing trouble, the militants opened indiscriminate fire, which was retaliated by the forces, triggering a gunfight,” a senior police official from the area said, adding that all the three militants holed up in the woods were neutralised.
Bodies and weapons have been retrieved and an identification process was being carried out, the official said, following which the bodies will be sent for burial to north Kashmir.
Government forces in Kashmir have refused to hand over bodies of slain local militants to their families and have been burying them at undisclosed locations, in presence of a few family members only.
Local sources told Kashmir Reader that choppers were pressed into service to neutralise the militants in the forest area. “The choppers kept buzzing in and out throughout the day,” the sources said.
Kumar termed the operation difficult as there was an exchange of fire at close quarters after the militants were zeroed in on. Pertinently, this is the same forest area where Saifullah alias Lambu was killed on July 31 this year.
Kumar also said that intelligence has been beefed up in not just hinterland but the forest areas as well. “The militants will be tracked through human intelligence in the woods,” he said.
He was also asked about the situation in Afghanistan and a potential fallout for the Kashmir valley. “I am not authorised to talk about Afghanistan, but the police will deal with any situation that arises professionally,” he said.
Meanwhile, two AK-47 rifles, an SLR, and “warlike stores” were retrieved from the site of the gunfight. “We have registered a case and further investigation has been taken up,” the police official from Tral said.