2 CRPF men injured; 25 civilians wounded in night protests near encounter site; Thousands join funerals; 4th militant laid to rest in Arwani this month; Shutdown in southern areas continues for 5th day
Two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants and an army soldier were killed and two Central Reserve Police Force personnel injured in a gunfight in Kulgam district on Tuesday morning, even as at least 20 people were wounded in night protests and clashes at the encounter site.
The encounter in Redwani Bala village is the fifth post-midnight gunfight in the restive southern Kashmir in the past five days.
A police official said a joint team of army’s 1 Rashtriya Rifles, CRPF and special operations group of Jammu and Kashmir police cordoned off Redwani-Bala at around 1am following “specific inputs” about presence of militants there.
“As the joint search party approached a suspected house, the militants opened fire which was retaliated by the forces, leading to a fierce gunfight,” the official said.
Local residents said during the gunfight that lasted for around eight hours (till 9 am), the forces used heavy explosives.
An army soldier, identified as Prakash Yadav, was wounded in the initial firefight and was rushed to a hospital where he later succumbed, the official said.
“Two CRPF personnel including an officer were injured after militants used a UBGL during the gunfight,” he said, indentifying the injured as sub-inspector Amit Kumar and constable Avnish.
“The forces finally torched the house as militants came out firing, but the rebels were soon gunned down,” a source said.
The house and a cowshed nearby were completely gutted in the blaze.
The police identified the slain militants as Ajaz Makroo son of late Ghulam Rasool of Ghat village in Qaimoh area of Kulgam, who was active in the militant ranks for the past two years, and his associate Waris Ahmad Malik of Gund Chahal village in Bijbehara area of Anantnag district, who had joined militancy only a year ago.
According to the police, Makroo was a close aide of LeT commanders Naveed Jat, and Azad Malik alias Dada who was killed in a gunfight on Friday.
In a statement, a police spokesman said: “Ajaz Makroo had a long history of criminal records since 2017. He was a close associate of militant commanders Naveed Jat and Azad Dada. Several cases were registered against him at police station Kulgam. Similarly, Waris also figured in several crime cases.”
The Redwani-Bala gunfight was the first encounter in a decade in this area comprising a cluster of villages including Redwani Ghat, Redwani Payeen, Redwani Bala, Hawoora-Mishpora and Kujar, though the area has remained a hotbed of militancy since 2010, with many active militants including some top commanders coming from the belt.
“Every time forces would launch a cordon-and-search operation here, people would come out, disrupt the operation and help the militants escape,” a police official said.
Many civilians lost their lives during such “disruptions”, he said.
In September this year, the army’s 1 Rashtriya Rifles established a camp here, triggering massive protests by the people who demanded its removal. However, the camp wasn’t removed.
25 INJURED IN PROTESTS
As the word about militants been trapped inside a house at Redwani Bala spread, announcements were made on mosque loudspeakers during the night, asking people to come out of their houses.
Braving frosty weather and darkness, scores of people held massive protests to disrupt the operation, and hurled stones on the forces in a bid to help the trapped militants escape.
The forces responded by lobbing tear-gas shells, chilly grenades and PAVA shells.
People, however, refused to relent and as the dawn set in, the number of protesters swelled with more people from adjoining villages, braving restrictions and chilly weather, thronging the encounter site.
The forces later used live ammunition to break up the protests, injuring many.
“We received 17 people who had sustained injuries after being hit by metallic pellets,” a doctor at primary health center Frisal told Greater Kashmir.
He said that three of them had sustained pellets in eyes and were referred to Srinagar hospitals for specialised treatment.
A doctor at sub-district hospital Qaimoh said they also received four persons with pellet injuries.
“We received four injured from Kulgam,” a doctor at district hospital Anantnag said.
“One of them had a pellet in left eye while another had multiple pellet injuries in face, chest and abdomen. Two others had pellet injuries in left arms,” he said.
Several others with minor pellet or shell injuries were treated locally.
A sea of mourners converged at Ghat village in Qaimoh as well as Momnoo-Arwani village in Bijbehara to have the last glimpse of slain militants Makroo and Waris.
Three rounds of funeral prayers were offered at both the places amid pro-freedom, pro-Pakistan and pro-Islam sloganeering.
Malik is the fourth militant from Arwani killed this month.
Earlier, Yazil Makroo, Sahir Makroo and Azad Malik from the same village were killed in different encounters.
The village, with a population of around 10,000, has borne the maximum brunt during the armed conflict.
“At least 140 local boys who had joined different militant outfits in the past 20 years are laid to rest in this village,” said Shabir Ahmad, pointing towards a huge martyrs’ graveyard.
Meanwhile, shutdown continued in Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts for the fifth straight day to mourn the killing of militants and a civilian recently, while internet and train services remained suspended.
16 MILITANTS KILLED IN 5 DAYS
As many as 16 militants have been killed in gunfights in southern Kashmir in the past five days. All these gun-battles took place during night hours.
Six militants affiliated to Hizb and Lashkar, including Azad Malik alias Dada, were killed in a gunfight in Dachnipora belt of Bijbehara on Friday (November 23).
Two days later, six more militants of Hizb and Lashkar, including top commander Umar Ganai, were killed in an encounter in Kaprin area of Shopian district.
On the same day, a Pakistani Jaish-e-Muhammad was killed in Khrew area of Pulwama district, while his local associate was apprehended, according to the police.
During the wee hours today, another militant affiliated to Zakir Moosa’s Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, was killed in Tral area of Pulwama district.