Srinagar: A top Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) commander is among three militants killed in a gunfight with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s southern Pulwama district early Thursday, officials here said.
A local resident and an Army jawan also died during the clash. Two Army soldiers have been injured, the officials said.
Meanwhile, a fierce gun battle between militants and security forces is raging in woods of Kandi area of frontier Kupwara district. SSP Kupwara Ambarkar Shriram Dinkar said that fighting broke out after a joint team of Army’s 28 and 47 Rashtriya Rifles and J&K police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group (SOG) launched a cordon-and-search operation at Portel Nad and Razdan Nad – upper reaches of Kandi connecting Lolab forests.
The killing of militants and civilian in Pulwama’s Dalipora village set off fresh tensions in southern parts of the restive Kashmir Valley prompting the authorities to impose curfew-like restrictions in Pulwama town and surrounding villages. A shutdown is being observed in neighbouring Shopian district to mourn and protest the killings, reports received here said.
The police have identified the slain JeM commander as Khalid Bhai, a Pakistani national. Also killed with him were two local militants identified as Naseer Ahmad Pandith and Umar Ahmad Mir.
The police said that sepoy Sandeep Kumar of the Army’s 55 Rashtriya Rifles laid down his life while fighting militants who were hiding in a private house at Dalipora. A local resident identified as Rayees Ahmed and believed to be the son of the house-owner also died during the clash whereas his brother Muhammad Yunus Dar who was critically injured has been brought to a Srinagar hospital for specialized treatment.
The Army and police officials said that the encounter between the holed up militants and security forces began shortly before dawn after the latter laid siege to Dalipora on learning about the presence of militants in the village.
“The gunfight began after the joint team of security forces launched a cordon-and-search operation in Dalipora area. As the security forces intensified the searches towards the suspected spot, the terrorists hiding in a house opened fire leading to a gunfight,” a police spokesman here said. He added, “In the ensuing gunfight three terrorists were killed and the bodies have been retrieved from the site of encounter.”
The officials said that strict security restrictions are being enforced in Pulwama town and its neighbourhood as a precautionary measure in view of the heightening tensions following the killing of militants and civilians in Dalipora encounter. A report from Shopian said that clashes between surging crowds of youth and the security forces have broke out at some places in the district and that the authorities have rushed in police and paramilitary reinforcements to control the situation. The security forces fired teargas canisters and used bamboo sticks to quell stone-pelting mobs at a few places in Shopian where a spontaneous shutdown is also being observed, the witnesses said.
Meanwhile, several Shia-dominated areas of the Valley erupted on Thursday morning after the word about the death of community youth who was among over two dozen persons injured in clashes with security forces during protests earlier this week spread. These protests were held against the alleged rape of a 3-year-old girl by a boy from her neighbourhood in Sumbal area of northern Bandipore district.
The police and hospital sources said that the 23-year-old Arshid Ahmed Dar died in Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) late Wednesday night. He had been critically injured after being hit in the head by a teargas canister fired by the security forces to quell violent protests in his native village Chanabal in Pattan area of north-western Baramilla district on May 14.
The death of the youth sparked off protests by huge crowds in several parts of the Valley following which the authorities imposed curfew-like restrictions Shia-dominated areas of Baramulla and Bandipora districts including Mirgund, Hanjiwara, Chanabal, Inderkoot, Shadipora, Panzinara and Shilvat. Various areas of capital Srinagar with sizeable Shia population have also witnessed protests over the death of the youth.
The authorities have closed or suspended class work in higher secondary schools and colleges in the Valley “as a precautionary measure”. The student community has been in the forefront of protests against the alleged rape of the minor girl. The mobile internet speed has been reduced in parts of Kashmir including Budgam, Baramulla, Bndipore and Srinagar districts.
The family of the minor girl has alleged that she was raped by her neighbour after luring her to a nearby school in Sumbal area on the evening of May 8. The relatives of the accused have, however, denied the charge and said that he has been framed due to a property dispute running between the two families of the area belonging to two different sects of Muslims.
The police said that it has arrested the accused and that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) is probing the alleged incident. J&K’s Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, said, “We will take the investigations to logical conclusion and people must remain calm.”
Various political, social and religious organisations of the Valley have demanded a fast-track investigation into the case and exemplary punishment for the culprit. The incident has also set off sectarian tensions in some parts of Kashmir as the victim and the accused belong to two different sects of Muslims. However, clergy and various political parties have urged the people not to see the crime through a sectarian prism. Amid widespread outrage, both Shia and Sunni Muslims have taken part in protest demonstrations across the Valley against the incident.
The J&K high court have while taking suo moto cognisance of the alleged rape sought reports on status of investigation of the case registered, medical treatment of the victim, her counselling, legal aid and compensation.
A division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan, after treating the matter as a Public Interest Litigation, on Wednesday also asked for identifying the media reports that had revealed the identity of the victim and called for immediate action against the persons responsible for such reports.
The Court directed the IGP Kashmir to report by May 17 the steps taken for effective investigation into the matter as well as protection given to the victim and her family.
A report from eastern district of Doda said that a local resident identified as Nayeem Shah was shot dead by unknown assailants in Nalthi Pull village of Bhaderwah area of the district around 2 am on Thursday. Security restrictions have been imposed in Bhaderwah which has almost 50:50 population of Hindus and Muslims “as a precautionary measure” following the killing of Shah. A desi (local) gun was reportedly used in the crime.
Meanwhile, Irfan Ahmed Sheikh, among two activists of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) shot at by suspected militants in Zainapora of Shopian recently has succumbed to his injuries in a Srinagar hospital. The police said that Sheikh and the other PDP activist Muzafar Ahmed Bhat were targeted by gunmen after taking them along to a nearby orchard from their chemist shop in Zainapora on May 8....