Anantnag, Feb 12:
Four local militants, two army men and a civilian were among seven people killed during an encounter between government forces and militants in Frisal area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Sunday.
Three army men were also injured, two of them critically, during the gunfight.
The slain militants have been identified as Mudassir Ahmad Tantray alias Asim of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Wakeel Ahmad Thoker of LeT, Farooq Ahmad Bhat of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Muhammad Younis Lone, also believed to be associated with the HIzb.
Lone had gone missing from his home in Hawoora, Kulgam since January 14. Other slain militants were also residents of Kulgam district.
The slain civilian has been identified as 40-year-old Ashiq Reshi, son of Abdul Majeed. The militants were trapped in Majeed’s house.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) South Kashmir range, S P Pani confirmed the killings while talking to Rising Kashmir.
“We did not have an idea that the place was a hideout for militants. The army men entered the house and were fired upon by militants killing two of them on spot,” Pani said, adding that the slain civilian was taken as a hostage by militants.
According to army, whose 1 RR carried out the operation and were assisted by police’s SOG, there were specific intelligence inputs regarding presence of militants in the area.
“We acted upon the inputs and at around 11:30 Saturday night the Nagbal locality of Frisal was cordoned off,” Commanding Officer of 1 Sector of the RR, R Chakravorty told a media gathering at Khannabal.
He said by midnight, four to five houses were zeroed in on and the cordon was tightened around one house where the militants were believed to be holed up.
“We came to know that a civilian was also holed up in the house and halted any operations till 5 in the morning. We made the local Auqaf committee to announce on loudspeakers urging the civilian to come out but the militants did not let him out, keeping him a hostage,” Chakravorty said.
Following the announcements, the commanding officer said, army men entered the house and as they were leaving with the civilian they were fired upon by the militants leaving the civilian and two army men dead on spot.
Following this initial burst, gunfight continued for several hours in which all the four militants were killed.
Charaborty’s and Pani’s claims were, however, contested by the locals who alleged that the slain civilian was used as a human shield by the army.
“Ashiq, his brother and his father were taken into custody by forces as soon as the area was cordoned off. They took Ashiq with them when they entered the house using him as a human shield,” the relatives and neighbors of the slain civilian alleged.
The locals alleged that civilians were often taken as human shields during encounters. “This is not a new thing. It has been going on since 90’s,” they alleged.
Clashes erupted in Frisal and other areas of Kulgam district as well as many parts of adjoining Anantnag district against the killings leaving more than 30 people injured.
Clashes were reported from main town Kulgam, Anantnag town, Bijbehara and Srigufwara area of Anantnag district.
Spontaneous shutdown was observed in the twin districts as soon as the news of killings spread.
Police issued a statement regarding the killings in Kulgam.
“Acting on specific information about the presence of militants in Nagbal, Frisal area of Kulgam district, Police along with Ist-RR and 18th BN of CRPF cordoned off the suspected house and started the search operation. During the cordon three militants managed to escape from the cordon. Consequently, the hiding militants opened fire on the joint search party. In the initial firing two soldiers of Ist RR identified as Raguveer Singh and Bandoriya Gopal Singh attained martyrdom, besides a civilian identified Ishfaq Majeed Reshi son of Abdul Majeed Reshi also got killed. Further two more security forces personnel received grievous injuries,” reads the police statement.
“In the operation four militants were killed who were identified as Farooq Ahmad Bhat son of Abdul Gani Bhat resident of Checki Dessand, Mohammad Younis Lone son of Ghulam Qadir Lone resident of Hawoora, both from HM outfit and Mudisir Ahmad Tantary @ Assim son Mohammad Akbar Tantary resident of Redwani Kulgam, Wakeel Ahmad Thoker son of Mohammad Ahsan resident of Hadigam, both of LeT militant outfit. Two AK rifles, 2 Pistols, 01 Insas riffle and ammunition was recovered from the encounter site. These slain militants were involved in several incidents of militancy including the killing of policemen,” adds the statement.
“In the aftermath of encounter, law and order situation occurred in which some individuals sustained injuries. Among the injured one person identified as Mushtaq Ibrahim Itoo, son of Mohammad Ibrahim resident of Hatigam, Srigufwara succumbed to his injured. In this connection investigation is going on.”