Anantnag: One of the ten “most wanted” militants in Kashmir was killed along with an associate on Saturday in a gunfight with government forces, here in Pampore town of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
The militants were associated with Lashkar-e-Toiba, police said. The slain most wanted militant has been identified as Umar Mushtaq Khanday, resident of Tulbagh area in Pampore town. “He was an active militant for more than one and half years now,” a police source told Kashmir Reader. “He was barely out of his teens and was a student before he joined the militant ranks.”
Khanday, a category-A militant, was put on the list of ten most wanted militants by police in August this year. “He was involved in the killing of two police constables in Baghat area of Srinagar in February this year,” Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar told reporters in Srinagar.
Two police constables were gunned down by unidentified militants on February 19 in Baghat area of Srinagar along the highly secured airport road. “Amongst various other crimes, this (the killing of policemen) stands out as the most unforgivable,” Kumar said.
The second militant has been identified as Shahid Khursheed, a resident of Chanapora area in Srinagar city. “He is the third militant from Srinagar city to have been neutralized in the last 24 hours,” Kumar said.
Two militants were killed in two different gunfights Friday in Pulwama district and Bemina area of Srinagar city. “Only five militants were active in Srinagar and three of them have been killed,” Kumar said.
He said that following the recent civilian killings in Srinagar, as many as thirteen militants have been killed in nine gunfights. Unidentified gunmen had recently killed more than half a dozen civilians, including two teachers and a well-known chemist.
The gunfight today took place in Drangbal area of main town Pampore, along the old national highway. “We had inputs regarding the presence of militants in the area and an operation was initiated at about midnight,” a senior police official said.
He said that contact was established with the militants soon after the cordon was laid and they were given a chance to lay down their arms. “The offer was refused by the militants and instead, they opened indiscriminate fire,” the official said, adding that the fire was retaliated.
The gunfight started at around 1:00 AM and continued till about noon on Saturday. The police have said that both the bodies have been retrieved from the site of the gunfight, along with arms and ammunition and some “incriminating material” as well. “The families of the slain militants have been intimated and the bodies will be sent for burial after completion of medico-legal formalities,” the police official said.
The forces stopped handing over bodies of slain militants to their families in April last year, saying that Covid appropriate protocol was not followed during the funerals. The practice has since continued, with slain militants being buried at locations disclosed only to a few family members.
In Pampore, local sources told Kashmir Reader that huge blasts were heard through the course of the gunfight — shattering window panes of many nearby houses.
“The traffic on the highway was halted and we still don’t know for sure whether the house the militants were holed up in, has been razed completely or partially damaged,” a local source said, adding that the area remained out of bounds for the general public till at least late Saturday afternoon.