Srinagar, Apr 1: In one of the most violent and bloody days in recent years in Kashmir, at least 20 people, including 13 militants and three soldiers were killed in South Kashmir in three separate gun battles today.
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Four civilians were killed and over 100 injured in the clashes that broke out during the gun battles as large number of people poured out of their homes in Shopian district leading to more trouble.
A senior Police officer said 13 militants, three soldiers and four civilians were killed in three gun battles in South Kashmir today.
One militant was killed in Dialgam in Anantnag district while one person was arrested there. Seven militants were killed in Dragad village of Shopian district and five in Kachdoora village in the same district. Three Army soldiers were killed at Kachdoora village and four civilians were also killed in Shopian – one at Dragad and three at Kachdoora.
At Dialgam Anantnag, one militant Rouf Bashir Khanday was killed and another militant Imran Rasheed surrendered during the gunfight.
Sources said that a joint team of police, Army’s 19 and CRPF launched a cordon at Brunty Dialgam village in Anantnag district during the intervening night of March 31/ April 1. The hiding militants opened fire, triggering an encounter. One militant Rouf Bashir Khanday was killed and another militant Imran Rashid has been captured alive during the operation.
Rouf Ahmad Khanday son of Bashir Ahmad Khanday, a resident of Dehruna village of Dooru Anantnag had announced his joining Hizbul Mujahideen and his photographs wielding AK 47 went viral in last week of March. The photograph had his code name Umar Hayat and joining “active date” 4/02/2018.
Security forces launched an operation in Dragad Shopian after they received information about presence of militants in the village. As the searches were going on, the hiding militants fired upon the search parties, ensuing an encounter.
Sources said that the militants were hiding in the houses of Inamul Haq, a 2014 Batch IPS officer posted in North East, and those belonging to two of his uncles. Sources said that security forces sent a local man Mushtaq Ahmad Thoker for asking the militants to surrender and he was eventually killed in the gun battle after militants refused to give up.
However, police said: “While the search party entered the target house at Dragad, they found the body of one Mushtaq Ahmad Thoker along with the dead militants”.
Seven militants were killed during the operation in the village. They have been identified as Adil Ahmed Thoker of Humhuna, Nazim Dar of Nagbal, Ubaid Shafi Malla of Trenz, Yawar Itoo of Safanagri, Rayees Ahmed Thoker of Padarpora, Zubair Turay of Shopian and Ashfaq Malik of Pinjura.
Apparently, the militant group had joined HM in the summer of 2017 and were involved in series of cases of attacks on civilians and security forces; the killing of Lt. Umer Fayaz is one among them.
Sources said that four militants managed to flee from the cordon after intense clashes in the village.
At Kachdoora, five militants and three soldiers were killed in the fierce gun battle which also started last night and continued till evening. The killed militants have been identified as Ishfaq Thokar of Paddarpora in Shopian district, Aimamad Ahmad of Amshipora in Shopian district, Sameer Lone from Hillow in Shopian district, Aqib Ahmad of Ringwara in Kulgam district and fifth militant has not been identified yet as his body was burnt beyond recognition.
While three militant bodies were recovered from under the debris by security forces, the fourth militant body was found by locals. The locals also found another militant in critical condition who succumbed later.
Three Army soldiers were killed and two others injured in the firefight. Several houses were completely damaged in the gunfight.
After killing of three civilians and injuries to over 50 persons in the clashes, the operation at Kachdoora was called off. Two militants who were hiding in the damaged houses came out with the protesters after the operation was called off. They fired in air and fled.
Addressing a joint press conference at Awantipora in Pulwama district, Lt Gen AK Bhatt, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps, said: “Today is a very special day for all our security forces. We have killed eight terrorists in two operations…” he said, adding that the third operation was still going on in Kachdoora village – where eventually five militants were killed.
“Two terrorists responsible for killing Lt Fayaz when he was visiting his family on a holiday had been eliminated”, said the GOC. Fayaz, posted in the Rajputana Rifles in Akhnoor, was abducted and killed by militants in May last year, when he had gone to attend a family wedding, and his body was found the next day.
“I appeal to youths not to get lured by weapons and Pakistani backed propaganda. Anybody who uses weapons will be dealt with in the same manner we dealt with the terrorists today”, said the General. He said Sunday’s was the biggest anti-militancy operation in the Kashmir valley in a long time.
A senior police officer said that at Dialgam, Senior Superintendent of Police Anantnag made a special effort to persuade the militants to surrender. He summoned the family members of the two militants in a bid to persuade them to give themselves up. “Instead of surrendering, one of the holed up militants opened fire and the security forces had no option but to kill him. The other one we caught alive. Operations are carried out most professionally by the security forces”, he said.
“Two Army jawans have been martyred in the operation while some others belonging to the Army, CRPF and police have been injured”, he said. However, third one was also killed in the operation later.
The officer said two civilians were also killed in the fighting and eventually at the end of the day’s violence four civilians were killed. “One was the house owner in Dragad village where the terrorists were holed up and the other was injured in clashes in Kachdoora. Six other civilians sustained bullet injuries, out of which two later succumbed in hospital.
Police officer said all the seven bodies of local militants killed in Dragad have been claimed by their families. He identified the killers of Lt Fayaz as Ahmad Malik and Rayees Thokar, both of whom were among those shot dead in Dragad.
“It is painful for all of us to see the loss of young lives. I appeal to parents to ensure children do not get lured by guns”, the officer said.
Inspector General of Police SP Pani said Internet services had been suspended in all five South Kashmir districts. “Train services were also suspended as a precaution.” Srinagar city, he added, was by and large peaceful.
Massive clashes erupted at Dragad, Kachdoora, main town Shopian, Anantnag, Pulwama and adjoining areas soon after news about the gunfights broke out.
Three civilians Mehraj-Ud-Din Bhat, Iqbal Manzoor Bhat and Zubair Ahmad Bhat were killed at Kachdoora while another Mushtaq Ahmad Thoker died at Dragad.
Iqbal sustained bullets and was taken to SKIMS where he succumbed to injuries; Mehraj-ud-din suffered critical injuries at Kachdoora and was declared brought dead on arrival at district hospital Pulwama, while Zubair Ahmad Bhat was killed at Kachdoora after receiving critical bullet wounds in forces action.
In the day-long clashes, more than 100 civilians were injured and six of them have suffered bullet wounds and 25 others pellet injuries.
Meanwhile, thousands of people participated in the funeral prayers of seven militants killed at Dragad, militant Rouf Basher Khanday killed at Dialgam, Anantnag as well as two civilians Mushtaq Thoker and Zubair Bhat. Also, there were spontaneous shutdown and clashes at several places in Kashmir valley soon after the news about the killings spread.
The Administration in Srinagar has imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar city for tomorrow as a precautionary measure to prevent flare up in violence.
“The areas where restrictions will be imposed include Rainawari, Khanyar, Nowhatta, Safakadal, M R Gunj, and partial in Maisuma, Kralkhud”, said a Government official.
Meanwhile, separatist called for strike in Kashmir valley today and tomorrow in view of killings in South Kashmir gunfights.
Schools and colleges across Kashmir Valley have been closed for Monday and all exams of Kashmir University and Central University have also been postponed.
An official spokesman of the department said the decision has been taken as a precautionary measure to avoid law and order situation in the Valley.
“In view of concerns expressed by students, all Kashmir University examinations scheduled to be held on April 2, 2018 (Monday) are postponed. Fresh dates for the deferred examinations shall be notified separately, later,” an official spokesman said.
“Meanwhile, as already notified, the class work in the teaching departments shall remain suspended on April 2, 2018”, the spokesman said.
“Central University of Kashmir (CUK) has postponed all the End Semester Examinations (ESE) scheduled on 2nd of April, 2018 (Monday),” PRO of the varsity said.
According to the I/C Controller of Examinations, the date for the postponed examination would be notified separately, he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti has expressed grief over the death of civilians during various security operations in Anantnag and Shopian districts today. She has also sympathised with those injured during these operations.
The Chief Minister has also paid tributes to the three Army jawans who were killed during these operations. She has conveyed her sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for peace to the departed souls.
DyCM Dr Nirmal Singh has also paid tributes to the Army jawans killed in the encounter.