Kulgam tense after 4 militants, 2 civilians, 2 soldiers died in gunfight
Gun salute, Pak flags mark militants’ funeral as thousands gather for demonstration; 18 civilians, 3 soldiers injured
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, Feb 12: In the current year’s fiercest encounter in Jammu and Kashmir, four local militants, two civilians and two soldiers got killed in Kulgam —one of the politically hypersensitive zones in southern Kashmir on Sunday.
Director General of Police, Dr Shesh Pal Vaid, told STATE TIMES that the operation was launched jointly by Kulgam District Police, Rashtriya Rifles 1st battalion and CRPF 18th battalion on specific information regarding the presence of a group of militants at Nagbal Frisal in Kulgam district late on Saturday night. During the operation, a fierce encounter took place in which four terrorists of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, besides two soldiers and two civilians got killed.
IGP Kashmir, Syed Javid Mujtaba Gillani, said that three militants managed to escape from the cordoned house and others holed up in the hideout attempted to escape while directing heavy gunfire on the Police and security forces. Two soldiers, identified as Raghuvir Singh and Bandoriya Gopal Singh, got killed in the nightlong gunfight while as three more soldiers sustained injuries. IGP said that the house-owner Ashfaq Majid Rishi got killed in the cross-firing as he could not be evacuated successfully. Later, during a clash between the local demonstrators and the security forces, one more civilian, namely Mushtaq Ibrahim Itoo s/o Mohammad Ibrahim Itoo of Hatigam, Srigifwara, got killed.
IGP said that an investigation had been launched into the circumstances that led to the death of the second civilian during the course of a clash. He said that 18 civilians sustained injuries during the clashes. Out of them four had been referred to SMHS Hospital, Srinagar. Doctors at SMHS said late on Sunday night that a civilian, Danish Nazir of Frisal, reported for treatment with a gunshot injury.
The militants killed in the encounter have been identified as Farooq Ahmad Bhat s/o Abdul Gani Bhat r/o Chak Dasand [initially identified as Farooq Ahmad Dar s/o Mohammad Yousuf Dar r/o Arreh], Mohammad Younis Lone s/o Ghulam Qadir Lone r/o Hawura (Hizbul Mujahideen], Mudasir Ahmad Tantray alias Aasim s/o Mohammad Akbar Tantray r/o Redwani and Vakil Ahmad Thokar s/o Mohammad Ahsan Thokar r/o Hadigam.
Officials said that two AK rifles, two pistols and one INSAS rifle, believed to be one of the weapons snatched away from Police at different places last year, were recovered from the site of the encounter.
Commander of Sector-1 of Army, Brig R. Chakravarty held a press conference to claim that the forces made every possible attempt to evacuate the house owner but failed as the militants did not listen to appeals to surrender and come out. He said that large number of people gathering around the encounter sites and clashing with the forces was continuing to be a major problem.
Sources said that one of the four militants had lately joined militancy as he had disappeared from his home on January 14th. Others had been reportedly active in Anantnag-Kulgam belt in the last two years. Younis Lone, according to Police records, stood booked in four FIRs including one murder and one attempted murder.
While the troops withdrew and carried all the four militants’ bodies to a Police post at Wanpoh, hundreds of residents of about a dozen surrounding villages gathered at the encounter site at Pandit Mohalla, Nagbal, and began clashing with Police and security forces amid anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans. During this clash, one demonstrator, Mushtaq Ibrahim Itoo, sustained critical injuries and later died at a hospital.
Officials as well as the civilians from the tense Kulgam belt told STATE TIMES that thousands of people attended the four militants’ and the two civilians’ funeral prayers at different places. They were all buried in their respective residential villages. The participants waved Pakistani flags and shouted anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans. In the evening, at least two armed militants appeared at Redwani and paid gun salute to the two militants buried in the village graveyard.
There was no official announcement of curfew but residents said that nobody was being allowed to move around and it was a curfew-like situation in a vast area. While as the separatists have called for total shutdown in Kashmir on Monday, sources said that the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani was likely to extend the call for shutdown for one or two days.