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 fromShopian town – during the wee hours of Friday following inputs about thepresence of militants in the area.
He said that at around 6 am as the securityforces neared a residential house, militants hiding there opened fire.
"The forces returned the fire,triggering an encounter which ended with the killing of three militantsincluding the last surviving militant of BurhanWani group", the officialsaid, adding that one residential house was damaged in the gunfight.
Lateef Tiger had joined militancy on October13, 2014. The picture of BurhanWani's 11-member group wearing olive greenfatigues and brandishing assault rifles started doing rounds on differentsocial media platforms in the summer of 2015. In the picture- which heraldedthe revival of militancy in Kashmir – Lateef Tiger was seen in the extreme leftin the middle row. Apart from BurhanWani and Tiger, the militants seen in thepicture included NaseerPandit, Saddam Paddar, AdilKhandey, Tariq Pandit, Anees,WaseemMalla, WaseemAhamd Shah, Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and Ashfaqullah.
While Tariq Pandit was the sole militantcaught alive by security forces, all others were killed one after another, theofficial said.
According to a police official, Tiger was onparole when he joined militancy in 2014.
A police spokesperson in a statement saidthat Tiger had a long history of "terror crimes" and was involved inplanning and executing attacks in the area.
"Several terror cases were registeredagainst him," the spokesperson said.
Similarly, the spokesperson said, Tariq wasinvolved in carrying out attacks on security establishments in the area.
"He was instrumental in luring youth tojoin terror organisations and was involved in various weapon snatchingincidents," the spokesperson added. He said that Shariq was also involvedin many attacks.
Tariq and Shariq had taken up arms inOctober 2018 and March 2019 respectively, a senior police official told GreaterKashmir.
According to local residents, Tariq's fatherwas also a militant and he was killed during 1990s.
"Tariq was born two months after thekilling of his father," a local resident said.
Another police official said that while theencounter was in progress, some local residents came out of their homes andthrew stones on the security forces.
"The forces fired pellets and tearsmoke shells which caused injuries to some of the stone throwing youths,"the official said.
A health official at district hospitalShopian said that they received 17 persons with pellet injuries at thefacility.
"Of them, three were later sent to SMHSSrinagar for specialised treatment given the sensitive nature of theirinjuries," he said.
Another official at district hospitalPulwama said that they received two injured persons with one of them havingfire arm injury in his foot.
The bodies of all the three militants werelater handed over to their families. Hundreds of people assembled in the nativevillages of the slain militants to participate in their last rites.