Brigadier, lieutenant colonel, major, captain, DIG of J&K police among injured Massive clashes at en-counter site; Advisor Kumar leads wre
Four army soldiers including a major-rank officer, three Jaish-e-Muhammad mili-tants, a policeman from the special operations group of Jammu and Kashmir police and a civilian were killed in a prolonged gun-battle in the restive Pul-wama district on Monday.
A senior official from the Jammu and Kashmir po-lice, a police sub-inspector and eight army soldiers including four officers were injured in the gunfight that started in Pinglina village after midnight.
The official identified four of the injured army of-ficers as brigadier Harbir Singh, lieutenant colonel Rahul Gupta, major Vinayak and captainSaurabPatni.
The gun-fight took place four days after a militant from Jaish-e-Muhammad rammed his explosives-packed car into a moving central reserve police force (CRPF) convoy in Lethpora area along the Srinagar-Jammu highway, killing more than 40 personnel of the force and injuring many others.
A police spokesperson identified the slain militants as Kamran, Fahad alias Furkan and Hilal Ahmad Naikoo.
While Kamran and Fahad are Pakistani nationals, Naikoo is a resident of Pinglina village.
Kamran was the operational commander of Jaish-e-Muhammad and was elevated to the top position in February last year.
A police official said at around 1 am Monday, a joint team of the army, special operations group of Jam-mu and Kashmir police and CRPF laid a siege around Pinglina following “specific inputs” about presence of militants.
As the forces got closer to a suspected residential house, militants fired at them from inside the house, the official said.
The forces immediately retaliated with full force, leading to an encounter, he said.
“In the initial exchange of fire, one civilian identi-fied as Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat, the owner of the house, was killed while four army men, including an officer, suffered fatal bullet wounds,” the official said, adding that all the four soldiers injured later succumbed at a military hospital in Srinagar. The official identified the deceased soldiers as major VibhutiShanker, hawaldar Shiv Ram, sepoyHari Singh and sepoy Ajay Kumar.
After a few hours, the official said, the forces were able to kill two militants. However, as the day pro-gressed, the third militant continued to engage the forces by firing intermittently at them.
“He changed locations from one house to another which dragged the encounter till Monday evening,” the official said.
Another police official, who wished not to be named, said the militant not only gave tough time to forces but “baffled them as well”.
“He was well-trained at guerilla warfare and that is why he was able to engage the forces for so long,” the official said.
In the afternoon, after a lull in the firing, the militant again fired indiscriminately at the forces, causing in-juries to several soldiers, including four officers. He said Singh, a 12 sector commander of army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles, was hit by a bullet in his abdomen.
At around 4.30pm, a bullet fired by the militant grazed a leg of the deputy inspector general of po-lice, Anantnag, Amit Kumar, who had rushed to the spot to supervise the operation, the official said.
A little later, a policeman from the J&K police’s SOG was killed while a sub-inspector also suffered injuries, he said.
The slain SOG man was identified as Abdur Rasheed Kalsa, while the injured sub-inspector was identified as Azad Ahmad.
All the injured were airlifted to the army’s 92 base hospital in Srinagar.
The encounter finally ended after 17 hours with the killing of the third militant. Three residential houses were also destroyed in the gun-battle.
When the gunfight was in progress, many local resi-dents came out of their houses and started pelting stones on the forces in a bid to hamper the operation.
The forces responded by firing tear smoke shells and pellets to quell the protests.
Meanwhile, to pay honor and respect to head con-stable Abdur Rashid, a resident of TanghdarKup-wara, who was killed in a gunfight in Pulwama Monday, a wreath-laying ceremony was held at dis-trict police lines Srinagar.
A police spokesman said civil and police officers led by advisor to governor K Vijay Kumar, DGP Dilbag Singh, IGP operations CRPF Zulfikar Hassan, IGP Kashmir SP Pani, DC Srinagar Abid Rashid Shah laid floral wreaths on the mortal remains and paid rich tributes to the slain policeman “for the supreme sacrifice made in the line of duty”.
Among others who paid floral tributes were senior officers of CAPF, SSP Srinagar Haseeb Mughal, SSP security ImtiyazHussain, other officers and person-nel of the district police and other forces.
Rashid is survived by wife, two minor daughters Hafsa Rashid, aged 6 and Mehrooz Rashid, aged 10 months, and an unemployed brother.
In a statement about Pinglina gunfight, a police spokesman said: “One of our colleagues identified as head constable Abdul Rashid Kalas sustained gun-shot injuries during the encounter. He was evacuated to hospital for medical attention where he suc-cumbed. Senior officers including DIG south Kash-mir range Amit Kumar, commander 12 sector also received injuries but are absolutely stable”.
“One of the three killed militants has been identified as Hilal, a resident of PinglenaPulwama and from the incriminating material recovered from the site of encounter the other two militants have been identi-fied as foreigners from Pakistan known to be Kama-ran@ Fahad and Rashid@ Gazi @ Lukaman”.
“According to the police records, all the three killed militants were affiliated with proscribed outfit JeM and were wanted by the law for their complicity in a series of crimes including attacks on security estab-lishments and civilian atrocities. The role of these militants in the recent Pulwama convoy attack is be-ing probed as well”.
“Arms and ammunition including rifles were recov-ered from the site of encounter. All these materials have been taken in the case records for further inves-tigation and to probe their complicity in other cases. Citizens are once again requested not to venture in-side 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 sanitised and cleared of all the explosives materials if any”.