Srinagar: Police on Tuesday said businessman Mohammad Altaf Bhat was killed in the "cross-firing" between militants and security forces at Hyderpora Monday, but he would be counted as a "harbourer of terrorists" as he did not inform authorities about the tenants in his building.
Altaf Bhat was among the four persons, including a Pakistani terrorist and his local associate, killed in the gunfight in Hyderpora locality of Srinagar late Monday evening.
"Altaf was killed in the cross-firing with the terrorists. Let the postmortem report come and we will come to know who fired the bullet that killed him," Inspector General of Police Kashmir zone Vijay Kumar told reporters here.
Even though he expressed regret over Altaf Bhat's killing, Kumar said the deceased would be counted among the "harbourers" of militants.
"He had kept tenants and police had no information about it. The responsibility of the owner does not end with renting out the place... He should also check once in a while as to what is happening there," the IGP said.
He said Mudasir Gul, the person who had rented the premises, was an active associate of terrorists.
"Mudasir had brought the terrorists from Jamalatta, where one of our cops suffered injuries in the neck during an encounter with terrorists, in his own car and dropped them at Hyderpora," he said.
The IGP said Gul was operating an illegal call centre from the rented premises.
"We have recovered computers, mobile phones, maps of the USA and other material. A special investigation team has been formed to investigate further," he said, adding the findings will be made public in due course.
Kumar said security forces tried their best to evacuate Bhat and Gul but could not save them "as the situation was bad".
Kumar last night had said the house-owner was working as terror associate.
"The house owner who was injured in terrorist fire, succumbed to his injuries. #Terrorists have been hiding on top floor of his building. As per source and digital evidence, he has been working as #terror associate. Search is still going on," Kumar tweeted.
However, the family claimed that Bhat had no links to militancy.
"You killed my innocent uncle Mohammad Altaf Bhat in cold blooded murder In Hyderpora, you used him as human shield and now saying he was "OGW" (over ground worker), return us his body @JmuKmrPolice @SrinagarPolice @IGP," tweeted Saima Bhat, niece of the deceased.
Altaf Bhat's teenage daughter pleaded with authorities to return her father's body.
Gul's family also claimed innocence and urged the authorities to hand over his body to them for final rites.
Kumar said the bodies of the four slain men were buried in the early hours today in Handwara area of Kupwara district to avoid any law and order problems in the city.
The IGP said the identity of the two militants was being verified.
The PDP has demanded speedy investigation into the matter.
"These allegations are grave and merit speedy investigation. Least @JmuKmrPolice could do is handover the dead body to the family for a decent burial. Are even dead ones a threat to peace now?" the party tweeted.
These allegations are grave and merit speedy investigation. Least @JmuKmrPolice could do is handover the dead body to the family for a decent burial. Are even dead ones a threat to peace now? https://t.co/QEE4mLlpVj— J&K PDP (@jkpdp) November 15, 2021
People's Conference leader Sajad Lone also demanded a probe into the incident.
"In the midst of conflicting claims in the Hyderpora encounter the least we deserve is a transparent description of what happened by a neutral institution. This is neither the first time nor the last time. Manoj Sinha- you have the opportunity to assert that human lives matter," Lone said.