Two militants of Hizbul Mujahideen including the youngest son of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chief Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, Junaid Sehrai, were killed and four security forces personnel injured in an encounter in Srinagar on Tuesday.
The second slain militant was identified by police as Tariq Ahmed Sheikh from Pulwama district of South Kashmir.
The two militants were trapped in a congested area in Kanemazar area of Nawakadal in Srinagar city. The encounter began at around 2.30 am and continued for 10 hours.
Junaid alias Zafar-ul-Islam is the second top Hizb commander to be killed after its operational chief Riyaz Naikoo was killed in south Kashmir in the first week of May. Junaid, police say, was looking after the militant outfit’s operations for central Kashmir. Police said he was tracked by using technical input and was under surveillance for a week.
“Two militants were killed and they belong to Hizbul Mujahideen,” Director General of Police, Dilbagh Singh, told reporters here.
Singh said that two policemen of Special Operations Group of J&K Police have gunshot injuries and two CRPF personnel have minor injuries.
The operation to track down Junaid was launched on Monday night jointly by JK Police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) when they cordoned the Nawakadal neighbourhood of old Srinagar city after inputs about his presence. As the joint team
zeroed in on the target house, militants lobbed grenade and opened fire. After a brief exchange of fire there was silence from both sides.
However, on Tuesday morning during the search operation militants again opened fire leading to a gunfight. In initial bursts of fire, a policeman and a paramilitary personnel were injured.
Police and paramilitary forces later fired shells and blasted the house where the militants had taken shelter resulting in the death of two militants.
Several other houses were completely or partially damaged in the shelling and blasts.
Fearing protests, the administration snapped the mobile internet and voice calls barring BSNL in Srinagar district.
Since Tuesday morning, entrance points to Baghat Barzullah, where Junaid Sehrai’s house is located, were closed with barbed wire and armoured vehicles. The measure was taken to stop movement of people and to thwart any protests against the killing of Junaid.
As the news of the encounter broke, there were clashes between youths and security forces in several parts of old Srinagar. Clashes were also reported from Nawakadal during the encounter.
Reports said that youths pelted stones on police and paramilitary forces who fired teargas shells to disperse them. The pitched battles continued for almost whole day.
However, DGP Singh said that this was a “clean operation and only one residential house was damaged.”
He said that there are 14 militants active in central Kashmir and the number keeps on changing.
“Not more than 240 militants are active in Kashmir,” he said.
Junaid Ashraf Sehrai, a resident of Baghat Barzulla in Srinagar, joined militant ranks on March 23, 2018. He was the son of senior separatist leader and Chief of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai.
Junaid had left home for prayers, but soon his photos started to appear on social media brandishing a gun, announcing that he had joined Hizbul Mujahideen.
Junaid was an MBA from Kashmir University. His father Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai originally hails from Tikipora village in Kupwara, where from Mannan Wani belonged. Manan Wani, a scholar of Aligarh Muslim University, was killed last year by security forces after he also joined the Hizb.
Meanwhile, inhabitants of Nawakadal area alleged that over a dozen houses were damaged in the encounter. They also alleged theft of valuables, cash and gold by security forces personnel during the encounter.
SSP Srinagar Dr Haseeb Mughal said, “We evacuated 400 inhabitants from the encounter spot and then started the operation. I refute allegations of theft or using excessive force by security forces.”
In the evening, four youths were injured after a damaged structure collapsed at the encounter site.
The youths came under the debris of the damaged structure this evening. “We have received four injured persons from the area. They have suffered burn injuries after a structure near the encounter spot collapsed,” said Dr Nazir Chaudhary, Medical Superintendent SMHS.
In a statement, police said Junaid was “mastermind behind stone pelting incidents in Srinagar District in general and South/ West Zones in particular before joining militant ranks.”
“He was also leading various unruly mobs and created law and order disturbance during anti-militancy operations. He was involved in instigating the youth to proceed towards encounter sites for making safe passage to holed up militants.”
“On 24/03/2018, he joined proscribed outfit HM and since then was involved in many terrorist activities which include indulging in distribution of drugs and narcotics among youth and was later on using them as his OGWs/ couriers. He was also master planner for carrying out sensational attacks upon the Police and security forces in order to snatch their weapons. He along with his associates was also involved in number of subversive activities including weapon snatching, bank robberies, attacks on security forces, grenade attacks in South/ Central Kashmir areas besides, motivating local youth to join terrorist ranks especially in HM outfit. He was also involved in collecting of funds on the name of HM outfit and was instrumental for strengthening HM outfit. He was motivating OGWs and local youth for throwing grenades on security forces.”
“He along with his associate fired upon one SPO namely Roman Rashid at Khanmohalla, Baghat Barzullah Srinagar in which said SPO got seriously injured. He also fired upon one person namely Manzoor Ahmad Hajam S/o Mohd Amin R/o Khangund Midoora, Tral on the pretext of being police informer. He also fired upon one Medical Shop owner namely Naseer Ahmad Ganie S/o Bashir Ahmad R/o Amlar Nowpora, Awantipora, who refused to provide the donations to HM outfit. He was also involved in threatening police personnel to leave their jobs particularly in South Kashmir,” police said.
Meanwhile the slain militants were laid to rest at a graveyard at Sheeri Baramulla in north Kashmir on late Tuesday evening.
The mobile services were restored on late Tuesday evening. However internet services were not restored.