IGP says 2 among them behind killing of TV artist
Anantnag: Four local Lashkar-e-Toiba militants, “including the two involved in the killing of Budgam TV artist Ambreen Bhat,” were killed in two different gunfights – one in Soura area of Srinagar and another in Awantipora area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, the police said on Friday.
The Awantipora encounter started late Thursday evening and concluded in the wee hours of Friday morning, at around the time when the second gunfight erupted in Soura.
The militants slain in the Awantipora gunfight have been identified as Shahid Mushtaq Bhat, a resident of Chadoora in Budgam district, and Farhan Habib, a resident of Hakripora village in Pulwama district.
“Both these militants were involved in the killing of our sister (Ambreen Bhat) from Budgam. They were being tracked and have been neutralised. Justice has been served,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, said.
Ambreen was shot at and killed Wednesday evening at her home in Budgam district, while her 10-year-old nephew was also shot at and is being treated.
The militants killed in Soura have been identified as Shakir Ahmad Waza, and Afreen Aftab Malik, both residents of Trenz village in Shopian district. The Soura gunfight has come only two days after a policeman was shot dead in the area, while his 8-year-old daughter was also injured.
The Awantipora operation started at about 9:00 PM Thursday as forces cordoned off the Aganhanzipora village in the police district. “There were inputs regarding the movement of militants, who we believe were involved in the killing of Ambreen Bhat in Budgam,” a senior police official told Kashmir Reader.
He said that contact was established with the holed-up militants and they were asked to lay down their arms, but they chose to open indiscriminate fire instead. “The fire was retaliated and in the course of the gunfight, both the militants were killed,” the official said.
Police claimed to have retrieved an AK-56 rifle, four magazines, and a pistol from the bodies of the militants. “Some incriminating material has also been retrieved. The bodies have been sent to an undisclosed location for burial, following completion of medico-legal formalities,” the official said.
The authorities have refused to hand over bodies of slain militants to their families, citing Covid protocol, since April 2020. The practice of burying militants at undisclosed locations in presence of a few family members has continued ever since. This has prevented people from holding massive funeral prayers for slain militants, wherein tens of thousands of people would normally participate.
The second gunfight started in Soura area of Srinagar in the early hours of Friday morning. “The militants were given a chance to surrender, but they opened fire and were killed in the ensuing gunfight,” a police official from Srinagar said.
He said that the bodies have been sent for burial. All four militants were categorised C in the police records and had recently joined Lashkar-e-Toiba, he said.
As the police have intensified anti-militancy operations across the Kashmir valley, ten militants have been killed in three gunfights, in less than three days. “Seven of the slain militants were from Lashkar-e-Toiba and three from Jaish-e-Muhammad,” Kumar said.
He said that four of the slain militants were locals and the rest from Pakistan.
The first gunfight took place on May 25 in Kreeri area of Baramulla district, wherein three JeM militants and a policeman were killed. The next day, on May 26, three more Pakistani nationals were killed in Kupwara district, soon after they had infiltrated from the other side of the Line of Control.