Five Militants and an equal number of civilians were killed by forces in Shopian and Kulgam districts of southern part of Kashmir on Sunday morning.
The slain militants were identified as top militant commander, Saddam Padder, Mohammad Rafi, who gave up his job as Assistant Professor to join militancy, Tawseef Ahmed Sheikh, Adil Malik and Bilal Moulvi. All the five militants belonged to the HM militant outfit. Five civilians were also killed in the clashes after the encounter as forces fired bullets and pellets to break demonstrations.
The slain civilians were identified as Adil Ahmed of Ashmuji Kulgam, Zubair Ahmed of Ayandgund Rajpora Pulwama, Sajad Rather a resident of Shahpora Dooru at Anantnag district, Nisar Ahmed of Arihal Pulwama and Asif Ahmed Mir of Rahmoo Pulwama.
Thousands thronged Heff, the native village of Saddam Paddar and Bilal Moulvi, in Shopian district.
The encounter broke out between a group of five militants and forces in Badigam village in Zainapora area of Shopian district on Sunday morning after forces had laid cordon around a house in the middle of night following inputs about the presence of militants there.
“The forces cordoned our locality at around 12:30 am. A local was sent inside the house twice to check how many rebels were holed up but he was unable to find any. It was in the morning at around 5:30 am when the militants responded by firing bullets that the exchange of firing went on till 8:30 am. Bilal Moulvi and Saddam Paddar tried to break the cordon and were martyred in the courtyard of another house adjacent to the one they were hiding in”, said a local resident.
Thousands of mourners turned up at the encounter site which witnessed intense clashes during and after the encounter. The forces torched the two-storey concrete house and also fired mortar shells into it to kill the militants, said locals.
The angry protesters also set ablaze two fire brigade vehicles as protests spread to several areas of Shopian. In Chitragam area of Shopian district, the forces fired on the protesters which resulted in injuries to several people. In Behibagh area of Kulgam district, which houses one of the largest army camps in south Kashmir region, locals pelted stones on army men resulting in clashes while army fired upon them to disperse, said a local.
“We received six persons at our hospital, which include one youth, Adil Ahmed, who was brought dead at the hospital. Adil is a native of Ashmuji Bhan area of Kulgam district who had a bullet injury on his back and he was declared dead on arrival. Two other youth had bullet injuries in their legs, who were later referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment, while three youth had pellet injuries, who were managed at our hospital”, said a senior official at district hospital Kulgam.
The forces had sealed the road to Zainapora sub district hospital, which was nearest to the encounter site, to prevent patients and injured being ferried to this health facility, said a doctor posted there.
“Some four youth with pellet injuries were brought to Zainapora hospital out of whom two persons with pellet injuries in their eyes were sent to Srinagar for further treatment”, said a medico at SDH Zainapora.
District Hospital Shopian witnessed chaotic scenes throughout the day as 85 injured were brought to this hospital. “We received 85 persons at our hospital out of which 25 were referred to Srinagar hospitals in which 12 had bullet while as 13 had pellet injuries. A youth was also brought dead here and he had a bullet wound in his chest. We were able to treat the remaining 60 injured at our hospital, who were all stable”, said an official at Shopian.
At D K Pora Public Health Centre 21 injured were received in which five had bullet injuries. Eight injured were referred from here to Srinagar hospitals for further treatment. A youth was also brought dead to this hospital, said doctors.
At district hospital Pulwama four persons three with pellet injuries were brought while one had a bullet wound in head, who was then referred to Srinagar in a critical condition. He died on way to Srinagar, said an official.
Despite rains, thousands of men women made bee lines through orchards in Heff in order to see the face of militants. Thousands of women, who were wailing and walking bare footed and all drenched in rain, were seen marching towards the native village of Saddam and Bilal Moulvi who were both kept in an open field in the backyard of their village. The scenes here were chaotic as the gathering was a huge one. A classmate and a close friend of Saddam Padder said that the group was roaming here in Heff since last three days and had met several friends and relatives, even on yesterday afternoon.
Militants appeared at Malikgund Shopian during the funeral of one of the militants, Adil Ahmed Malik and gave a gun salute to him. One of the militant commanders, Zeenat Ul Islam, also appeared in Heff village at Saddam’s funeral gathering and fired bullets in air to pay tributes to the slain gunmen. As per police Saddam was active since September, 2014, Bilal since October, 2016, Adil since August, 2014 while Tauseef Ahmad Sheikh of Rampora, Quimoh was active since 2013 and Mohammad Rafi Bhat of Ganderbal had recently joined them.
Police said that “repeated attempts to make them surrender which did not materialise.” “During the encounter, unfortunately while handling a highly volatile situation civilians were injured in cross firing among them five civilians succumbed to their injuries. The condition of other injured persons is stated to be stable. We once again reiterate that encounter sites are prohibitory zones and highly susceptible to cross firing so must be avoided by civilians,” said police in a statement.