Srinagar: Kashmir on Sunday woke up to the news of the killings of 12 militants, three Army men and four civilians in three separate encounters that took place in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian and Anantnag districts.
Among those neutralised were two militants involved in the abduction and killing of Indian Army lieutenant Ummer Fayaz. Only five months into service, Fayaz was on leave to attend his cousin sister’s wedding at Batapura near Behibagh when he was abducted by terrorists at night. The next day his bullet-riddled body was found at Herman Chowk in the heart of Shopian district. Sunday’s encounter is considered as one of the biggest anti-militancy operations in a single day in the last seven years. Apart from a total of 19 deaths, local sources told The Free Press Journal that over 200-250 civilians also have been injured, with a majority of them sustaining pellet injuries – which the locals described as a recap of the 2016 unrest.
Separatists have called for a Valley-wide shut down on Monday. Apprehending the worst, the authorities have suspended Internet services in south Kashmir as well as rail services between Bannihal town in the Jammu region and Baramulla town in the Valley. The Hizbul Mujaheedin (HM), which is considered as the most active terror group in Kashmir, has received a serious blow with at least six of its commanders being killed.
After receiving inputs about the presence of militants in three different areas of south Kashmir, a concerted search operation was launched. According to a senior police official, who wished anonymity, the militants had assembled to hold a meeting where they were going to discuss the “targeting of security personnel and political workers”.
The first encounter took place on the intervening night between Saturday and Sunday in Anantnag’s Brunty Dialgam area, when a local militant named Rouf Bashir Khanday of Hizbul was killed, while another militant, Imran Rashid, was captured live by the forces. The second encounter, which took place in Shopian’s Draggad area, seven militants, including a few “top commanders,” were killed by the Indian Army. All the seven militants – six from HM and one from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – were reportedly identified as locals after their families claimed the bodies. Of the seven, the two militants were identified as those involved in the killing of Lt Fayaz.
AK Bhat, the corps commander of the Chinar corps, while addressing a press conference in Awantipora district, said, “We have avenged his (Fayaz) death.” “I appeal to the youths to not get lured by weapons. Anybody who uses weapons will be dealt with in the same manner that we dealt with the militants today (Sunday),” Bhat warned.
In the third encounter that took place in Shopian’s Kachdoora area, five militants were killed. The identities of all the five is still being ascertained. Protests erupted after the encounters and four civilians were killed when many local youths moved towards the encounter site to rescue the trapped militants. Giving details about the operation in a joint presser with Army and CRPF, Director General of Police S P Vaid said that all the slain militants were local lads from different outfits. “They have been identified by next of their kin and handed over to their families. Unfortunately, there have been casualties on the civilian side well,” he said.
“All the injured are stable and we hope they will be discharged very soon. The Police, the CRPF and Army personnel have also suffered injuries during the encounter,” he said. On civilian injuries, IG (Operations) of CRPF Zulfikar Hassan said that civilians created an immense law and order problem, which manifested in four deaths; many others were injured at the site of the gunfights.
“It was possibly an attempt to help the trapped militants as scores of civilians had had rushed to the encounter sites. But our operations won’t stop. We won’t shy away from taking strict action,” he said as he appealed people to stay away from encounter sites. “Anybody can get hurt when there is firing from different directions.”
Among those neutralised were two militants involved in the abduction and killing of Indian Army lieutenant Ummer Fayaz. Only five months into service, Fayaz was on leave to attend his cousin sister’s wedding at Batapura near Behibagh when he was abducted by terrorists at night. The next day his bullet-riddled body was found at Herman Chowk in the heart of Shopian district.