3 militants killed in Awantipora gunfight

Three HizbulMujahideen militants were killed during a gunfight with security forces in Panzgam village of Awantipora police district during Friday night.

The deceased were identified as Showkat Ahmad Dar of PanzgamAwantipora; Irfan Ahmad War of Sopore in Baramulla district and Muzaffar Ahmad Sheikh of Tahab, Pulwama. 

Showkat had been active since September 2016 and his two associates had joined the militant outfit recently.

One residential house also damaged during the gunfight.

An army official said following a tip-off, a joint team of Army’s 55 Rashtriya Rifles, Central Reserve Police Force and Police cordoned off Panzgam village during Friday night and launched searches.

“The search operation turned into a gunfight after the militants holed up inside the residential house opened fire on the security forces,” he said.

A police officer posted in south Kashmir told Greater Kashmir: “We have recovered three dead bodies of Hizb militants. Some weapons and other incriminating material were also recovered from the gunfight site.”

Panzgam residents said they spent the night sleepless because the firing continued for most part of the night.

A top police officer said it was a “clean operation” in which no collateral damage took place.

As soon as the news about the encounter broke out in the area, a group of youth pelted the security forces with stones. The forces fired tear smoke shells to disperse the protesters.

On Saturday, thousands of people participated in the last rites of the slain militants in their native villages. After multiple funeral prayers, the deceased were laid to rest.

Scores of mourners from various areas started arriving in Tahab, Pulwama and Panzgam areas for a last glimpse of the militants.

Local youths and security forces clashed with each other at Tahab after Muzaffar was laid to rest. The clashes were on when this report was filed. A complete shutdown was observed in Pulwama and Awantipora townships.

Authorities also snapped Internet service in Awantipora and Pulwama police districts as a “precautionary measure”.

In a statement, the police said the militants were wanted by law for their complicity “in a series of terror crimes including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities”.

“Several terror crime cases were registered against them,” the statement said.

“As per police records Showkat Dar had a long history of terror crime records. He was involved in planning and executing series of terror attacks in the area and many other civilian atrocities. He was part of a group involved in killing of army jawan Aurangzeb last year. He was also involved in killing of policeman Aqib Ahmad Wagay last year. Several terror crime cases were registered against him,” the statement reads.

“Irfan War was part of terror groups responsible for conspiring and executing attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities in the area. Accordingly terror crime cases were registered against him. Similarly, Muzafar Sheikh as per police records was also involved in several terror attacks on security establishments in the area. Several criminal cases were registered against him for terrorist activities,” the statement said.

“Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter. Police has registered a case and all these materials have been taken in the case records for the purpose of investigation and to probe their complicity in other terror crimes,” it added.

The statement said: “Citizens are requested not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials. People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosives materials if any.”