Youth killed in forces' firing on mob after 2 militants' died in Pulwama encounter
Police Rakhshak torched, 17 cops injured in clashes; Geelani calls for shutdown
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, Jan 20: Current year's first civilian casualty in the Police and security forces' firing in Kashmir occurred in Naina Batpora village of Pulwama district in South Kashmir on Wednesday as the residents engaged the armed forces in violent clashes after a gunbattle in which two militants of Hizbul Mujahideen are believed dead.
Defence sources claimed that two Hizbul Mujahideen militants were killed in the joint operation by Pulwama Police, Rashtriya Rifles and Central Reserve Police Force at Naina Batpora where a cordon-and-search operation had been launched on a specific information about the presence of two to three militants on Tuesday evening. Jammu and Kashmir Police, however, maintained that only one militant's body was recovered from the site of the encounter.
Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman Saleem Hashmi confirmed in a statement emailed to Srinagar-based mediapersons that two of his organisation's cadres had got killed in the encounter. He identified them as Shakir Ahmad Bhat alias Abdul Aziz of Banduna and Lateef Ahmad alias Haroon of Begpora.
DIG South Kashmir Nitish Kumar told STATE TIMES that Police and security forces had an 18-hour-long gunfight with the holed up militants. When the firing subsided and a portion of the identified house was brought down with IEDs, Police and troops started a search operation and recovered a militant's body alongwith an AK-47 rifle. Police got him identified as Shariq Ahmad Bhat of Brah Banduna, Pulwama.
"As soon as we started a search for the militants killed and their arms and ammunition, hundreds of residents gathered and attacked the Police and security gorces from all directions. Consequently we couldn't complete the search operation. We have taken the Hizbul Mujahideen statement seriously and we will be sifting through the debris in a couple of days. As of now, we can confirm only one militant's death but we can not rule out death of two militants", DIG said.
According to the DIG, a thick mob of the residents not only torched a Rakhshak vehicle of Police Station Kakpora but also caused injuries and fractures to 17 Police and paramilitary personnel. Those injured in the ding-dong clashes include two Deputy SPs----Nazir Ahmad Ganai of IRP 18th battalion and Iftikhar Choudhary of DAR Pulwama. He said that three civilians sustained firearm injuries in the clashes. Later one of the injured breathed his last at a hospital in Awantipora. He was identified as Pervez Ahmad Guroo of Naina Batpora.
Guroo, reports said, was a 23-year-old labourer who earned his livelihood out of sand extraction in river Jhelum. Residents maintained that Guroo was not part of the demonstration and he was shot dead by Police without a specific provocation. On the other hand, senior officials including DIG South Kashmir Nitish Kumar and SSP Pulwama Tejinder Singh, alleged that Police and security forces opened fire in self defence after a mob attacked and left injured over a dozen Police and paramilitary personnel including two officers. They claimed that there was no armed retaliation till the mob set a Rakhshak on fire and intensified its offensive.
Police Station Pulwama registered two FIRs---one on the encounter and another on the clashes, attacks, firing and the death of a youth.
With the death of the two militants in the encounter and a youth's killing in the firing by Police and security forces, Pulwama-Bijbehara-Awanipora belt of South Kashmir turned tense. Authorities did not confirm but sources revealed that curfew-like restrictions would be enforced in Naina Batpora area on the next three days. Train services in the Valley were closed down for Thursday late on Wednesday night.
Chairman of the radical faction of Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani condemned Guroo's death in the Police fiing and called for shutdown in South Kashmir on Thursday.