Two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants, a civilian and a policeman were killed and two policemen and CRPF man injured in a gunfight at Fateh Kadal area of downtown Srinagar on Wednesday.
A police spokesman said Special Operations Group (SOG) and paramilitary CRPF men laid Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) at Syed Ali Akbar area of Fateh Kadal after receiving inputs about presence of militants in a residential house.
“While search operation was going on at target location, militants fired on the forces. The fire was returned by the troops and in the ensuing encounter two militants, their accomplice and a policeman were killed,” he said.
The house where from militants were firing on troops was damaged during the gunfight.
The deceased were identified as LeT commander Mehraj-ud-Din Bangroo son of Sonaullah Bangroo of Narparistan Fateh Kadal, his associate Faid Mushtaq Waza son of Mushtaq Ahmad Waza of Akilmir Khanyar and Rayees Ahmad son of house owner Habibullah Hanga.
The policeman killed in the encounter was identified as Kamal Kishore.
Two policemen and CRPF men were also injured in the gunfight and have been hospitalised.
Director General of Police, Dilbagh Singh said Bangroo was a major threat in Srinagar and killing of the militants would improve security environment in the city.
Talking to reporters on sidelines of a wreath lying ceremony of slain policeman, he said police recovered incriminating material including arms and ammunition from the site of encounter.
“A case has been registered and investigation taken up,” he said.
Police said the militants refused to come out of the house and in turn fired upon the search party. “In the ensuing gunfight, both the militants and Rayees were killed”.
“The complicity of Rayees, who was part of the group in providing shelter and logistics to the militants, is being investigated,” a police spokesman said.
Local residents, however, contradicted the police claim and said Rayees was a civilian and a baker by profession.
“The cordon was laid around 1 am and then after Fajar prayers there was heavy exchange of gunfire which stopped at around 8 am,” they said.
Meanwhile, police issued advisory asking people not to go near the gunfight site as it was being sanitized and cleared by Bomb Disposal (BD) squad.
“Entering in such area can prove dangerous due to un-cleared explosive materials. People are requested to cooperate with police till area is properly checked/cleared by police from all the explosive materials,” police said.
As the gunfire stopped, youth hit streets at Fateh Kadal, Zaldagar, Karfali Mohallah and Khanyar areas in downtown to protest against the killings. They pelted stones on police and CRPF men, who fired tear smoke shells and resorted to baton charge to disperse them.
The clashes continued till evening.
Meanwhile, sea of people assembled at Fateh Kadal and its adjoining areas when bodies of militants and civilian Rayees were brought to their respective homes amid massive pro-freedom sloganeering and waving of flags.
Later, thousands of people attended the funeral prayers of Bangroo and Waza amidst chanting of pro-freedom slogans.
Bangroo had joined militancy in 2016 while Waza joined this year.
Waza had gone missing on March 23 this year from his house. His family had filed a missing complaint with Khanyar police station.
After his photograph had appeared on social media, his family had appealed him to shun militancy and return.
Immediately after the gunfight erupted, authorities ordered closure of all schools and colleges in Srinagar.
Officials said decision to close educational institutions was taken as a precautionary measure to prevent any law and order problem in the city.
University of Kashmir and Islamic University of Science and Technology also suspended class work today.
Meanwhile, the police and CRPF men beat up many journalists including photo and video journalists working for various local and national organisations and barred them from discharging their professional duties.
The media bodies have condemned the police action and demanded action against the erring police officials.
Meanwhile, many areas of uptown and downtown Srinagar observed spontaneous shutdown.
The shopkeepers downed the shutters of their shops while public transport was off the roads in many areas.
Authorities also suspended mobile internet service in Srinagar.