Three Hizbul Mujahideen militants including Lateef Ahmad Dar alias Tiger of Dogripora Pulwama, the last surviving militant of Burhan Wani group, were killed in an early morning encounter with security forces in south Kashmir’s poll-bound district Shopian on Friday. At least 19 civilians suffered injuries during clashes with security forces which erupted as the news about the encounter spread.
The other two militants killed in the gunfight were identified as Tariq Ahmad Sheikh alias Mufti Waqar of Moolu Chitragam, Shopian, and Shariq Ahmad Nengroo of Chotigam, Shopian.
The district is going to polls on May 6.
A police official said that teams of army, police and CRPF cordoned the Imamsahib village – some seven kilometres from Shopian town – during the wee hours of Friday following inputs about the presence of militants in the area.
He said that at around 6 am as the security forces neared a residential house, militants hiding there opened fire.
“The forces returned the fire, triggering an encounter which ended with the killing of three militants including the last surviving militant of BurhanWani group”, the official said, adding that one residential house was damaged in the gunfight.
Lateef Tiger had joined militancy on October 13, 2014. The picture of BurhanWani’s 11-member group wearing olive green fatigues and brandishing assault rifles started doing rounds on different social media platforms in the summer of 2015. In the picture- which heralded the revival of militancy in Kashmir – Lateef Tiger was seen in the extreme left in the middle row. Apart from BurhanWani and Tiger, the militants seen in the picture included NaseerPandit, Saddam Paddar, AdilKhandey, Tariq Pandit, Anees, WaseemMalla, WaseemAhamd Shah, Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and Ashfaqullah.
While Tariq Pandit was the sole militant caught alive by security forces, all others were killed one after another, the official said.
According to a police official, Tiger was on parole when he joined militancy in 2014.
A police spokesperson in a statement said that Tiger had a long history of “terror crimes” and was involved in planning and executing attacks in the area.
“Several terror cases were registered against him,” the spokesperson said.
Similarly, the spokesperson said, Tariq was involved in carrying out attacks on security establishments in the area.
“He was instrumental in luring youth to join terror organisations and was involved in various weapon snatching incidents,” the spokesperson added. He said that Shariq was also involved in many attacks.
Tariq and Shariq had taken up arms in October 2018 and March 2019 respectively, a senior police official told Greater Kashmir.
According to local residents, Tariq’s father was also a militant and he was killed during 1990s.
“Tariq was born two months after the killing of his father,” a local resident said.
Another police official said that while the encounter was in progress, some local residents came out of their homes and threw stones on the security forces.
“The forces fired pellets and tear smoke shells which caused injuries to some of the stone throwing youths,” the official said.
A health official at district hospital Shopian said that they received 17 persons with pellet injuries at the facility.
“Of them, three were later sent to SMHS Srinagar for specialised treatment given the sensitive nature of their injuries,” he said.
Another official at district hospital Pulwama said that they received two injured persons with one of them having fire arm injury in his foot.
The bodies of all the three militants were later handed over to their families. Hundreds of people assembled in the native villages of the slain militants to participate in their last rites.