Srinagar: At least, two Islamic militants have been killed in a fierce gun fight raging in an orchard outside Padgam Pora-Wandakpora villages in Jammu and Kashmir’s southern district of Pulwama.
One of the slain militants has been identified as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s Abu Okasa who was wanted by National Investigation Agency (NIA) for his alleged involvement in August 5, 2015 attack on a BSF convoy near the garrison town of Udhampur and carried a cash reward of Rs 500,000 over his head.
The fighting broke out on Wednesday evening when the security forces laid siege to a farm of the State’s Agriculture Department where a large group of LeT militants including a top commander were reportedly holding a meeting. The militants tried to break through the security forces’ dragnet by opening indiscriminate fire but reinforcements from Army’s 50 and 55 Rashtriya Rifles and local police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group (SOG) along with CRPF quickly laid two rows of Concertina barbed wire around an adjacent apple orchards and a poplar nursery to block their way.
Reports said that while fighting is underway, the security forces have found the bullet riddled corpses of two militants near a mountain stream close to the encounter site. One of the slain militants was later identified as LeT’s Abu Okasa, a Pakistani national, whereas the other also appears to be a non-local, officials said.
Police sources said that the security forces combating a two-and-a-half years’ old insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir had specific information about the LeT’s most wanted commander Abu Dujana being among ten to eleven militants trapped in the besieged area. Some of them may have actually managed to flee, a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Pulwama’s SP Rayees Ahmed Butt said that the fighting between security forces and a group of three to four militants is going on after they escaped into a poplar nursery in the area following a brief exchange of gun fire. SP Awantipora, Shridhar Patil, confirmed the bodies of two militants have been found near the encounter site.
The NIA which is investigating the August 5, 2015 attack in which two BSF men were killed had announced cash reward of ₹ 500,000 each on information leading to the arrest of Abu Okasa and his accomplice Zarkam alias Muhammad Bhai. Following the attack, Muhammad Naved Yakub, also a Pakistan militant of LeT, was captured alive by a group of villagers. His accomplice Muhammad Noam was, however, killed in the security forces’ retaliatory fire.
Reports also said that soon after the fighting broke out hundreds of residents from neighbouring villages came out on the streets and marched towards the encounter site chanting pro- freedom slogans. They clashed with the security forces when they came in their way. A mob attacked a security force vehicles while it was passing through neighbouring township of Kakapora, repronts said. At both places police fired rifles over the heads of stone-hurling crowds and also burst teargas canisters.
Meanwhile, three suspected militants engaged by security forces in a brief gun fight at Khimber on the outskirts of summer capital Srinagar earlier during the day on Wednesday managed their escape, leaving behind an AK 47 rifle. The search operation launched in the area following reports about the presence of militants was later called off, police sources said.