Militant killed in highway shootout was wanted by NIA, says police

The militant killed during a brief shootout in Mir Bazar area of South Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Saturday was wanted by the National Investigating Agency in the 2015 Udhampur attack, police said on Sunday, even as thousands of people attended the funeral prayers of the slain militant here on Sunday.
Militant killed in highway shootout was wanted by NIA, says police
Photo: Mir Wasim/GK

The militant killed during a brief shootout in Mir Bazar area of South Kashmir's Kulgam district on Saturday was wanted by the National Investigating Agency in the 2015 Udhampur attack, police said on Sunday, even as thousands of people attended the funeral prayers of the slain militant here on Sunday.

The slain militant, identified as Fayaz Ahmad Ashwar alias Setha from Qaimoh area, according to police, was evading arrest in connection with his alleged role in the Narsu-Udhampur attack on a convoy of Border Security Force in 2015 that left two BSF men dead and 11 others injured. A Pakistani militant affiliated with Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit, Muhammad Naved Yaqub, was arrested while trying to flee after carrying out the attack while another was gunned down.

Soon after the attack, the NIA had launched a crackdown in south Kashmir, particularly Kulgam district, and rounded up many people. "Fayaz went into hiding and was evading arrest since then," police said, adding: "The NIA had even announced an award of Rs 2 lakh for his capture. After remaining in hiding for some time Fayaz later joined the active militant ranks."

FUNERAL

Thousands of people attended the funeral prayers of the slain militant, while Qaimoh and adjoining villages Khudwani, Redwani, Hawoora, Mishpora, Rampora observed a complete shutdown on Sunday. Before he was laid to rest, a few militants appeared from a window of a Masjid and while brandishing weapons fired several rounds in the air to pay homage to their slain colleague. One of the militants, who appeared on the scene, is believed to be LeT district commander Kulgam, Junaid Matoo. He was carrying two rifles.

None of the militants had their faces covered as people jostled to shake hands, hug and kiss them. The militants fired three shots to pay respect to their colleague as people, who had turned up in thousands for funeral prayers, raised pro-freedom, pro-Islam and pro-militant slogans. The photos and videos of the militants' participation in funeral went viral on social networking sites which, despite being banned, are used allegedly through proxy sites.  He was finally laid to rest at the martyrs' graveyard Qaimoh.

POLICE VERSION

Meanwhile, a police spokesman in a statement said Fayaz was active from the past two years and allegedly involved in "many subversive activities."

"He remained active in his local area, motivated youth to join militant ranks and used to provide logistic support for safe passage of militants and their associates," the spokesman said.

Three civilians, all working in RAMKY construction company and a cop were killed in the Mirbazar shoot-out on Srinagar-Jammu highway while one more civilian and a policeman sustained injuries.

The deceased civilians were identified as Suhail Nabi Bhat of Badipora Tral, Niyaz Ahmad Mir of Malpora – Anantnag and Hem Raj Sharma of Samba—all working for RAMKY.  The injured were identified as Farooq Ahmad Dar of Khrewan Malpora- Anantnag and a Special Police Officer (SPO) Raqib Ahmed. The slain cop was identified as Mehmood Ahmad, a follower.

"The identity of the deceased militant was ascertained after a grenade and rounds of magazine were found over his body while his body was taken to District hospital Anantnag. A pistol which the militant was carrying was also recovered from the spot of the incident," the spokesman said.

According to police, there was collusion between a tractor and a trawler on the highway at Malpora Mir Bazaar in which the tractor driver Imtiaz Ahmad, Malik of Laram Ganjipora Anantnag was killed. "A police party had gone to inspect the accident scene and clear the traffic jam on the highway when the militants stuck. The militants who carried the attack had probably come in a vehicle," a police official said.

Sources said: "Two more militants managed to snatch a rifle of a one of the cops before fleeing from the spot."

Police had claimed that one of them was also injured in the retaliatory action and that they were following the blood trail through paddy fields to nab the militants. However, after massive searches the militants could not be traced.

 "A case FIR number 100/2017 under section 307 RPC, 7/27 Arms Act and investigation has been taken up into the incident," police said.

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