Police say 3 militants killed in Srinagar encounter, families claim the slain were civilians

Police on Wednesday said three local militants were killed in a 20-hour long encounter at Lawaypora on the outskirts of Srinagar. However, the families of the three youth – who police said were militants – held protests here and said their sons had no connection with militancy.

The slain have been identified as 24-year-old Ajaz Maqbool Ganai from Putrigam village in Pulwama, 22-year-old Zubair Ahmad Lone from Turkawangam village in Shopian and Athar Muhstaq Wani from Bellow, Pulwama.

Police said the encounter started on Tuesday evening after police, army and CRPF launched a cordon and search operation.

While one militant was killed in the early hours of Wednesday, two others were shot dead a few hours later, a police official said.

Police said that at about 05:30 PM troops of 02RR launched a Cordon and Search Operation on a specific input near Hokersar where the militants hurled grenade on the searching party and fired indiscriminately on troops.

Search party of 02 RR, police said, was heavily fired upon by the militants hiding inside the building which was retaliated. “Repeated announcements were made to the hiding militants to lay down their illegal weapons and surrender, instead the hiding militants fired continuously upon the searching party, which was retaliated resulting in elimination of militants,” police said.

One AK 47 rifle and two pistols were recovered, police said.

“From the recoveries their identity has been established as Ajaz Maqbool Ganie, Athar Mushtaq (both residents of Pulwama) and Zubair Lone resident of Shopian,” police said.

A gym centre was damaged due to shelling. Soon after, pitched battles between stone throwing youth and security forces were also reported from the area.

Families say the killed youth were civilians:

The families of the three youth held protests here and said that their sons had no connection with militancy. They said the three youths were home till Tuesday and were not militants.

The families staged a protest outside the Police Control Room here.

Aijaz’s sister told reporters that his brother left for university at 11 am on Tuesday as he had to fill some form there. “He called me at 3 pm to say that he might have to stay at the university. Today, we got a call that he has been killed,” she said. “He was not a militant.”

Aijaz is the son of a policeman who is posted in Ganderbal district, she said.

The families were demanding bodies of the youth, however police buried the three bodies in Ganderbal district.

Police in a statement said: “Some families from South Kashmir came to PCR and claimed them to be their wards,” police said. “They have been sent to Ganderbal for further identification and participation in last rites in the presence of a Magistrate.”

The statement by the three families come days after police filed a chargesheet in a fake encounter case in which three youth from Rajouri were killed by army in Shopian district in July this year and passed-off as militants. The police chargesheet said Captain Bhoopendra Singh of Army’s Rashtriya Rifles 62 battalion and two others conspired and killing the three youth, who had come to Shopian for work.

In the evening, police issued a statement saying that Army launched the operation and police and CRPF joined later.

“Although the three killed militants in today’s encounter were not mentioned in our list of militants, yet two of them are hardcore associates of militants (OGWs). Pertinently, one of the two is relative of top HM commander Rayees Kachroo who was killed in 2017. Reportedly, third might have joined very recently. Generally parents don’t have idea about the activities of their wards. Several OGWs after committing terror crimes like grenade throwing & pistol shooting etc. stay normally with their family. For instance, one student from Pulwama who was taking coaching in Srinagar was caught for lobbying a grenade with the help of CCTV’s footage. His parents were totally unaware about his terrorist activities. Police is investigating the case and after thorough investigation will come to the conclusion soon on merits. IGP Kashmir has requested the parents to keep close watch of their wards and keep strict vigil about their day to day activities to ensure that they may not indulge in any subversive or terrorist activities,” the police statement said.