A militant died in a fierce gun-battle in south Kashmir's Pulwama district on Wednesday and a civilian was killed by government forces after clashes erupted near the gunfight site, reports and witnesses said.
Massive protests were held against the killings in which scores of people were injured, with four of them sustaining the bullet injuries.
Police said following inputs about presence of militants in BatporaNyaina village of Pulwama, the cops of Special Operations Group, soldiers of Army's 55 Rashtriya Rifles and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force men cordoned the village late last night.
"During the search operation, militants who were present in the village fired one gunshot on the forces and went into hiding. The forces quickly sealed the entire village and called additional security personnel to ensure that the hiding gunmen don't flee," a police official told Greater Kashmir.
He said about a hundred youth were trapped in nearby Masjid, where an 'Ijtima' was going on, due to the firing outside. "The forces sought help of locals to evacuate the trapped persons. They were all finally evacuated safely," he said.
He said at about 9:35 pm (Tuesday), the heavy exchange of firing started on both sides which continued till late night. The firing later stopped, but the village remained under siege.
"On Wednesday morning, heavy exchange of fire again started which continued for some time. The forces finally blew up the house where a militant was hiding, bringing an end to the encounter," police sources said.
The forces retrieved the body of the militant and identified him as Shariq Ahmad Bhat alias Zubair of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen—a resident of BraBandina village in Pulwama.
The forces later lifted the siege from the village in the afternoon.
According to sources, there were three militants hiding in the area, but two of them managed to escape from during the encounter.
"We have not cleared the debris yet. There may be some explosives under it. We have requested locals not to go near the spot as it can be dangerous," a senior Pulwama-based police officer said.
THE CIVILIAN'S KILLING
Earlier, as the forces were busy in gun-battle, hundreds of people from different villages assembled near the encounter site and pelted stones on forces and held massive pro-freedom and anti-India protests, witnesses said. The forces lobbed tear-gas shells to disperse the protesters who were trying to help the hiding militants escape.
Soon after the news of the killing of a local militant spread, hundreds of people reached the area and clashed with forces. The forces resorted to intense teargas shelling to disperse the protesters, but the clashes and protests continued, locals said.
Reports said angry protesters surrounded a Rakshak vehicle of Special Operations Group of J&K Police and tried to set it ablaze.
The forces resorted to firing and intense tear-gas shelling again in which dozens of youth were injured, with four of them sustaining bullet injuries. They were rushed to Awantipora hospital, but one of them succumbed on way to the hospital, local residents told Greater Kashmir. The slain person was identified as Parvez Ahmad Guroo son of GulamQadir of GthNyainaa. Others who sustained bullets were identified as Junaid Ahmad son of Basheer Ahmad of ChersooAwantipora, Shabir Ahmad Bhat and Muhammad Ibrahim Bhat of Dogripora and Farooq Ahmad Dar of Dogripora. They were referred to Srinagar for specialized treatment, a police official said. Other injured were treated at local health centers, he said.
A Health Department official said four injured had bullet injuries. "One of them had a bullet injury on his shoulder, another in his abdomen and the other on his belly. However the boy who succumbed had a bullet on his face," the official said, insisting not to be identified.
Following the civilian's killing, massive clashes again erupted in the area in which at least 30 people, including an officer of Indian Reserve Police and some of its personnel, were injured.
The IRP officer was identified as DSP Nazeer Ahmad Ganai (of 18 BN IRP).
According to a police statement, Nazir has suffered from multiple fractures in leg.
In the meantime, massive protests were held at Bandina, Nyayina, Sangam Bridge and many other adjoining villages where hundreds of people assembled and held pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations. The protests were going on in the areas when this report was filed.
Parvez Ahmad Guroo is survived by two sisters—one of them handicapped—and aged father.
Locals said Parvez would extract sand from river to feed his poor family.
The family members and locals blamed the forces for killing Parvez in cold-blood.
"Parvez was not a militant. He was walking on road during clashes but the forces targeted him and other youth. He was killed in cold-blood," JehangirWagay, brother of Parvez, said. "He was shot in his face due to which he died on the spot."
The locals said until Pervez's killers are punished, they would continue with their protests.
A pall of gloom descended on the entire village (Nyayina) when the body of Parvez reached there. People rushed to the residence of the bereaved family amid screams and cries.
The sisters of Pervez, including his handicapped sister, cried aloud: 'Who will feed us now. You were the only hope of our life."
Later Parvez's body was taken for funeral prayers amid massive protests by people including men, women and children. Thousands of people joined the funeral procession.
FUNERAL PROCESSION OF MILITANT:
As the body of the slain militant Shariq was taken to his native village, thousands of people including men, women and children assembled there and held massive protests. Women were seen beating their chests while cries could be heard from everywhere. Thousands of people participated in his funeral procession.
In view of massive clashes in the villages, the district administration suspended the train service for the entire day. The rail track passes through Nyaina, Bandina—the villages of the slain militant and a civilian.
Following the encounter and killings, a complete shutdown was observed in dozens of adjacent villages of Pulwama and Awantipora.
A complete shutdown was also observed in Tral area, reports said.
"Based on a specific information about the presence of militants in Naina, Pulwama, police along with army and CRPF launched a cordon-search operation. During the operation, militants opened indiscriminate fire on the forces which was retaliated. During the ensuing encounter, more than 50 civilians who had got trapped due to cross firing in a nearby mosque were rescued safely by Pulwama police," a police spokesman said. "In the gun-battle, one dreaded militant of HM outfit got killed who was later identified as Shariq Ahmed Bhat R/O Brow Bandana, Awantipora."
During the operation, "a large number of rioters came towards the operation site and pelted stones on security forces. The forces exercised maximum restraint and 17 security force personnel got injured including Nazir Ahmed Ganai, DySP of 18 Bn IRP who sustained multiple fractures in his leg," the spokesman claimed.
"A police vehicle was also set ablaze by the unruly mob. During the uncontrolled rioting, three rioters got firearm injuries, out of which, one Parvaiz Ahmed Guroo of Naina later succumbed to his injuries. The condition of other two rioters is said to be stable. Case FIR No. 10/16 and 11/16 stand registered in PS Pulwama and investigation is on," the police spokesman said.
HIZB PAYS TRIBUTE TO SLAIN MILITANT
Meanwhile, militant outfit HizbulMujhadeen paid tributes to slain militant Shariq Ahmed Bhat who died during a gunfight at BatporaNainaPulwama.
"The death of these fighters amply proves the fact that every soldier of Hizb is committed to Kashmir cause and ready to sacrifice his life to take the struggle to its logical end," Hizb Spokesperson Salim Hashmi while quoting the deputy chief of the outfit Saifullah Khalid told local news agency CNS.
"Nation will always remember these martyrs and take pride for what they did for the freedom struggle."