Two Special Police Officers who had joined militant ranks were among four militants killed in a night-long encounter with security forces in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district Friday morning.
The slain Special Police Officers (SPOs), according to police, had deserted the District Police Lines Pulwama with their service rifles on Thursday morning to join the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militant group.
A police official told Greater Kashmir that on Thursday evening men from Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and J&K Police surrounded the Panjran Lassipora village, some 8 kilometres from Pulwama town, in search of militants.
“As the forces started a search operation, the militants in the area opened fire, triggering an encounter,” said the official.
According to the official, one militant was killed in the initial exchange of fire.
He said that reinforcement was rushed to the spot and cordon was tightened as darkness descended.
The firing from both the sides continued, in spurts, throughout the night, the official said, adding that it ended around half past seven in the morning with the killing of three more militants.
Two residential houses were brought down in the process.
He said that all the killed militants were affiliated with JeM.
The official identified the slain militants as Salman Khan son of Bashir Ahmad Khan of Uthmulla, Shopian; Shabir Ahmad Dar son of Mohammad Hashim Dar of Tujan, Pulwama (both former Special Police Officers); Ashiq Hussain Ganai son of Abdul Khaliq Ganai of Panjaran, Pulwam and Imran Ahmad Bhat son of Mohammad Yousuf Bhat of Arihal, Pulwama.
Salman and Shabir had joined J&K Police in the year 2017 and 2018 respectively.
While Salman, 22, belonged to a poor family, Shabir came from a well-off farming family. His father is also a government employee with Rural Development Department.
CLASHES AND FUNERAL:
While the gun-battle was in progress, local youths poured into the streets and threw stones on the security forces in a bid to disrupt the cordon and help the militants escape, another police official said.
He said that security forces fired tear smoke shells and pellets on the stone-throwing youths.
Later, as the bodies of the slain militants reached their native villages, thousands of mourners converged there to take part in their last rites.
Local residents said that after multiple rounds of funeral prayers attended by thousands of mourners, the slain militants were laid to rest in their respective local graveyards.