Srinagar: At least, twelve, three Army jawans and a civilian were killed in three separate encounters in Jammu and Kashmir’s southern Shopian and Anantnag districts on Sunday.
Three more civilians were killed and scores others were injured in security forces’ actions during subsequent clashes in the twin district.
Director General of Police, Shesh Paul Vaid, termed the killing of twelve militants of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahedin as one of the biggest successful counter-offensives against terror groups operating in the Kashmir Valley in recent times.
Vaid told this newspaper that three Army jawans lost their lives and four others were injured while fighting a group of militants holed up in a cluster of private houses at Kachdoora in Shopian.
He said that at nearby Dragad the owner of the house in which seven militants had been trapped too was killed. He has been identified asMushtaq Ahmed Padroo.
“All seven militants were killed in Dragad encounter. There has been heavy stone pelting near the encounter sites. There was no option but to use force,” the police chief said adding that one civilian was killed and six others were injured, three of them seriously, in security forces firing.
While a protester Zubair Ahmed Bhat was killed on the spot in the security forces firing, two of the critically injured civilians Iqbal Manzoor Bhat and Mehrajuddin Bhat succumbed to in hospitals, the police and hospital sources said.
Vaid also said, “Pellet shotguns too have been used resulting into injuries to about 25 people but all of them are stable. A number of J&K police and CRPF personnel too were injured in stone pelting.” Other reports put the number of injured in clashes between 90 and 100.
Reporters covering the clash at Kachdoora said that two houses caught fire during fighting and with that the exchanges intensified. Later the corpses of three militants were found lying under the debris. The officials said that the operation was called off at twilight but the search of the debris will resume on Monday morning.
“We had inputs about the presence of four to five militants in the area. We will search the debris again tomorrow and see if any more bodies are lying there,” said an Army official.
The militants killed at Dragad have been identified as Adil Ahmed Thoker, Nazim Dar, Ubaid Shafi Malla, Yawar Itoo, Rayees Ahmed Thoker, Zubair Turay,and Ashfaq Malik of Pinjura- all residents of Shopian district.
Lt. Gen. A.K. Bhatt, Corps Commander of Army’s Srinagar-based 15 (Chinar) Corps, said at a hurriedly called press conference at the headquarters of counterinsurgency ‘Victor Force’ at Awantipora, about 33-km south of here, said that two of the slain militants Ishfaq Malik and Rayees Thokar were behind the murder of Lieutenant Umar Fayyaz Parray.
The young Muslim Kashmiri Army officer of 2 Rajputana Rifles was kidnapped and subsequently brutally killed by militants in Shopian in March 2017. The gory incident had evoked a nationwide outrage and a pledge from the Central government that “terrorism will be eradicated from the Valley at any cost”. 22-year-old Parray posted in frontier Akhnoor area of Jammu region was on leave to be part of the marriage celebrations of his cousin in Batpora village of neighbouring Kulgam district when kidnapped by masked gunmen.
The killing of militants and civilians set off protests and clashes at places in the twin districts of southern Kashmir, neighbouring Pulwama and Kulgam districts, summer capital Srinagar and some other parts of the Valley. At places, the security forces fired teargas canisters to quell protesters and stone-pelting mobs at places, the witnesses said.
DGP Vaid said, “We caught one militant alive and one was killed in Anantnag encounter”. Elaborating, he said, “I would like to make a special mention about the Peth Dialgam encounter where our SSP Altaf Khan made a special effort, which is unheard of in any part of the world. He called the family members of one of the militants. They spoke with him for 30 minutes, to convince him to surrender. Khan himself tried to persuade the militant that he was not fighting jihad.”
He added, “But he (militant) did not heed the advice of his family or the police officer and instead he fired on the security forces. Ultimately, they (security forces) were left with no option but to shoot him down.”
A statement issued by the police here added that the searches at Peth Dialgam started and location of militants was zeroed in, thesecurity forces “made repeated requests on loud speaker asking them (militants) to surrender, as per the SOP (Standard Operation Procedure)”. It added, “On this, one of the terrorists (name withheld) came out of the house and surrendered before the forces. He has been taken into custody. It is pertinent to mention that the family of the militant who surrendered at the encounter site also helped the police in motivating him to come out of the house and surrender”.
Life came to a standstill in most parts of the Valley following an alliance of key separatist leaders called ‘Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL)” issued a shut down call for two days from Sunday.
The authorities suspended train services in the Valley and asked the mobile phone service providers to snap internet services on these "as a precautionary measure."
Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, expressed grief over the death of two civilians. She has also sympathised with those injured during these operations, an official release said. It added that the Chief Minister who is camping in Delhi 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.
One more body found, toll is 20
The police late Sunday night said that four persons killed in the fire fight at Kachdoora in Shopian were militants whereas the identity of the fifth person whose body was found at the site is being ascertained.
It said in a statement here, " The total number of militants killed in Kachdoora encounter have found to be four whereas about the fifth one person the police os ascertaining facts (sic)."...