2 JeM militants, soldier killed in Bijbehara gunfight

Two Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants and an Army soldier were killed in a gunfight in Bijbehara area in this south Kashmir district on Tuesday, police said.

A police official said that the gunfight broke out between the militants and the security forces in Marhama village this morning when the militants opened fire on the joint party of Army’s 3 RR and Special Operations Group (SOG) of J&K police during a cordon-and-search operation. He said in the exchange of fire, which lasted for around six hours, two militants identified as Sajad Bhat and Tauseef Bhat, both from Marhama village and an Army soldier Anil Jaswal, were killed.

A witness said that house and cowshed were also destroyed during the encounter.

Sajad, according to the police, had joined JeM’s fidayeen squad days after the Lethpora attack on 14 February this year after National Investigating Agency ( NIA) probing the attack, found him to be the owner of the Maruti Eco car used by Aadil Dar to carry out a suicide attack, which left at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel dead.

“Before, security forces would arrest Sajad, he went missing and barely hours later his photo carrying AK-47 went viral on social media announcing his plunge into the JeM ranks, “ the police said.

 Another slain militant Tauseef Bhat, according to the police, was active for more than two years and had played a key role in recruiting Sajad Bhat to the JeM.

This was the second encounter in the district within twenty-four hours. On Monday, an Army Major and a JeM militant were killed, while another officer and two soldiers, including another Major rank officer sustained injuries in an encounter in  Achabal area of Anantnag district.

Meanwhile, protests erupted in the area in the morning. Youth pelted security forces with stones, following which clashes broke out in the area as security forces responded by lobbing shells and firing pellets, a witness said.

According to the witnesses people in large numbers participated in the funeral of two local militants at Marhama.  Meanwhile, the internet services in Anantnag district were again suspended soon after the gunfight broke out.

Police Version

In a statement a police spokesman said that “on a credible input, a cordon and search operation was launched jointly by police and security forces at Marhama in Bijbehara area this morning. As the search operation was on, the hiding militants fired on the search party. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter.

In the exchange of fire with the militants, one Army soldier Anil Jaswal sustained gunshot injuries. He was evacuated to the hospital where he succumbed. “We pay our rich tributes to the Army soldier for the supreme sacrifice made in the line of duty,” he added.

The spokesman said that the slain militants were wanted by law “for their complicity in a series of militancy related incidents including attacking of security establishments and civilian atrocities. Sajad was wanted in Lethpora blast case.”

“Both of them were part of groups involved in planning and executing series of militant attacks in the area. Several militancy related cases stand registered against them. Some of the cases against Sajad include case FIR No 16/2018 and case FIR No 28/2019 pertaining to Lethpora attack. Cases registered against Tawseef include case FIR No 95/2018. Incriminating material including arms and ammunition was recovered from the site of encounter. All these materials have been taken into case records for further investigation,” the spokesman added.

He said, “People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosive materials if any.”