Militant, soldier killed in Pulwama gun-battle

2 soldiers wounded; 7 civilians injured at encounter site; Thousands join slain militant’s funeral; LeT, Hizb pay tributes

A soldier and a militant were killed, while two other soldiers were injured, in a gunfight in Ratnipora village of Pulwama district on Tuesday.

Seven civilian protesters also received injuries when they clashed with the forces near the site of gun-battle.

The deceased militant, identified as Hilal Ahmad Rather of Begumbagh, Pulwama, had, according to a police source, facilitated the escape of Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Naveed Jatt from police custody last year. 

Jatt was killed by the forces during a gunfight in Chadoora area on November 28, 2018.

The National Investigation Agency, which was probing Jatt’s escape, had also indicted Rather along with four other local men in its charge-sheet filed with a special court in Jammu on August 3, 2018.

A police official told Greater Kashmir that at around 3am, the forces ring-fenced Ratnipora village after receiving specific information about the presence of militants in the area.

He said as forces were about to search a residential house, a militant hiding inside opened fire at them.

“The forces returned the fire, triggering an encounter which led the killing of a militant affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen,” the official said.

He said that during the exchange of fire, three army men were also wounded, and later, one of them identified as Havaldar Baljeet Singh succumbed.

The official identified the injured soldiers as Sandeep Singh and Chander Pal Singh.

As the gunfight was in progress, many local residents, according to another police official, piled out of their houses and threw stones on the forces to distract them in a bid to help the besieged militant escape.

“The forces retaliated by firing pellets and tear smoke shells leaving some of the stone throwing persons injured,” the official said.

A health official at district hospital Pulwama said that they received four persons with superficial shotgun metal pellet injuries in their bodies.

Another official at a government medical facility in Pampore said that three injured persons were brought there for the treatment.

“They all had pellet injuries and we sent two of them to the SMHS hospital in Srinagar as they needed specialised treatment,” he said.

Braving the biting cold, thousands of mourners participated in the last rites of the slain militant.

As the body of Rather reached his native village of Begumbagh, some four kilometers from the actual site of the gun-battle, thousands of mourners converged there to participate in his last rites.

Three back-to-back rounds of funeral prayers were held for Rather when this report was being filed.

A near-total shutdown was observed in Pulwama town to mourn the killing of Rather.

Meanwhile, many areas in district Kulgam remained closed in view of the recent militant killings in Kellam village of the district. While Kulgam town was partially closed, many villages including Ashmuji, Arwani and Pahlu observed a complete shutdown.

In Pahlu some youth clashed with the forces who resorted to aerial firing to scare them away. A complete shutdown was also observed in Bijbehara town.

Pertinently, the families of the slain militants had asked the people to resume their normal business.

 

LeT, HIZB PAY TRIBUTE

Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen Monday paid tribute to slain militant Bilal Ahmed Rathar.

In an e-mailed statement to local news agency KNS, LeT spokesman Abdullah Ghaznawi quoted the outfit’s chief Mahmood Shah as saying: “Morale, motives and ambitions of freedom fighters are higher than Himalayas. No power on earth can suppress such emotions”.

In another e-mailed statement to KNS, Hizb spokesman Saleem Hashmi quoted the outfit’s chief Syed Salah-ud-din as saying: “While militants are sacrificing their lives to achieve the goal (of freedom), some people for their vested interests are playing the role of Mir Jaffar and Mir Sadiq”.