Srinagar: A PhD scholar turned militant Manan Bashir Wani was among two gunmen killed by security forces in a gun battle in Jammu and Kashmir’s frontier district of Kupwara on Thursday.
The officials said that the gun fight broke out after the Army’s 30 Rashtriya Rifles, J&K police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group (SOG) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) laid siege to Shartgund Qalamabad village of the district where the duo was hiding in a private house.
They added that the security forces learnt about the presence of Wani and another militant in the village through intelligence inputs.
“A cordon-and-search operation was launched in Shartgund Qalamabad late Wednesday night after learning about the presence of militants through intelligence inputs. The militants opened fire at the search party and the intermittent firing between the two sides continued through Thursday,” a police official said.
He added that Wani and his accomplice Tariq Gujjar were killed in the final assault by the security forces shortly before Noon on Thursday.
Wani was pursuing higher studies at Aligarh Muslim University but in January this year he returned to his home state only to pick up the gun and join Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the frontline indigenous militant outfit.
The security officials termed Wani’s killing as a “major success” against militants and militancy in the State.
The killing of militants sparked off protests in several areas of Kupwara. Reports said that police and Central armed forces used force to quell stone-pelting mobs at places in the district. The clashes were underway as reports last came in. A witness said that clashes broke out also during the encounter and the security forces used live ammunition to broke up the violent protests, leaving several people injured.
Earlier, the authorities closed all the educational institutions in Kupwara and also in southern district of Pulwama and snapped internet services in parts of Kupwara and Pulwama “as a precautionary measure to avoid law and order situation”.
Reacting to the killing of Wani and the use of force against protests around the encounter site, independent lawmaker and leader of Awami Itehad Party (AIP) Engineer Rashid said, “The killing of Manan Wani negates Governor Satya Pal Malik’s claim that we should focus on eliminating militancy rather killing militants”. He in a signed statement issued in Srinagar added, “Rather celebrating the killing and using bullets and pallets to disperse thousands of protesters at the encounter site, government should introspect what forces masses to play with their lives”.
Meanwhile, an activist of pro-Pakistan Muslim League Tariq Ahmed Ganai was shot dead from point blank range by unidentified gunmen inside his home in southern Shopian district on Thursday.
A former militant, Ganai was a founding member of Tehrik-e-Hurriyat, a pro-freedom organisation led by separatist patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani. But some time ago he quit the party and joined the Muslim League headed by incarcerated separatist leader Massarat Aalam.
A report from Shopian said that while the family and neighbours were preparing for Ganai’s funeral, a group of masked militants appeared at the scene and offered him gun salute.