February 13, 2017 3:16:24 am
Four militants and two Army men were killed in an encounter in Kulgam district in South Kashmir early on Sunday. Two civilians were also killed — one in the encounter, and another in the protests that followed.
Brigadier R Chakravarty, Commander, 1 Sector RR, said a security cordon was put up around Nagbal Frisal village on Saturday night following information about the presence of militants in the area.
“After the cordon was established at around midnight, we came to know that a civilian was also inside the house with the militants. We delayed the operation due to the presence of the civilian. Along with members of the local Auqaf Committee, we made several announcements that the civilian should be released, but the militants didn’t release him. After we launched the operation, the civilian, who had heard our announcements, came out and was hit by militant fire and died. Two soldiers who were in the front were also killed in the firing,’’ he said.
The soldiers who were killed have been identified as Lance Naik Bhandoriya Gopal Singh and Sepoy Raghubeer Singh. Three Army personnel were also injured in the gunfight.
The civilian who was killed has been identified as Adil Reshi, son of the owner of the house where the militants were hiding.
All the four militants killed in the encounter were local youths. They have been identified as Vakil Ahmad Thoker of Hadigam, Mudasir Tantray of Redwani, Farooq Ahmad of Chak Dasand and Yonus Ahmad of Hawoora village.
Stating that they were from the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, Chakravarty said, “the killing of these militants is a big success for the security forces.”
Sources said three militants managed to escape, and one or two may have been injured. “Apparently three militants also broke the cordon, but four militants were gunned down,’’ said Deputy Inspector General of Police, South Kashmir, S P Pani, adding that the situation was under control. Officials said four AK rifles and other arms and ammunition were recovered from the encounter site.
Meanwhile, villagers alleged that after the security forces put up a cordon around the house, the owner of the house and all his family members came out. But, they said, two brothers were sent back inside by the security personnel, and only one of them came out.
After the encounter ended, protests broke out in the area and security forces reportedly used bullets and teargas shells to disperse the protesters. More than 25 civilians are reported to have sustained injuries. One of the injured, Mushtaq Ahmad Yatoo, 22, of Hatimarg, succumbed to his injuries. Four of the critically injured protesters have been shifted to Srinagar for treatment. Hospital authorities said many of them had suffered bullet injuries.
Residents alleged that police used teargas shells to disperse the protesters in Anantnag town, where the injured were taken for treatment. Later in the day, a huge crowd attended the funeral of the militants.
The Opposition has demanded an impartial inquiry into the civilian deaths, while the state government spokesman regretted the deaths and said a probe would be carried out. The separatist leadership, meanwhile, has called a strike in the Valley on Monday.
The Army said over 30 militants are active in Kulgam area, which falls under the jurisdiction of 1 Sector RR, and efforts are being made to motivate them to lay down their weapons.
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