Bodies of three militants, including Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Junaid Mattoo, killed in an encounter on Friday were recovered from Arwani in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Saturday, new agency ANI reported. Three weapons, including AK 47 guns, and six magazines were also recovered from their person. Mattoo, Nisar Ahmed and a third militant who hasn’t been identified yet were gunned down in a joint operation involving the Indian Army, Special Operations Group (SOG) and the CRPF. The three had taken refuge inside a house in Arwani village.
The two bodies which were fished out, other than that of 24-year-old Matto alias ‘Jana’, were of 18-year-old Adil Mushtaq Mir alias ‘Nana’ and 20-year-old Nisar Ahmad Wani. All three were from Lashkar-e-Toiba.
Mattoo took up militancy in June 2015. He was from Khudwani village of J&K’s Kulgam district. Scaling heights within the outfit, he was made commander the southern region of Kashmir after he shot down two policemen in broad daylight at a bus stand Anantnag in June 2016.
Wani was from Heff Shremal of Shopian district and Mir was from Frasbal area of Pampore. They joined the banned outfit after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed, in 2016.
Acting on a tip-off, security forces secured a perimeter around the house where the militants were hiding, in Arwani village’s Malik Mohalla at 8 am Friday. Engagement with the militants began at 10 am. Additional forces had to be summoned.
During the encounter, locals started protesting against the security forces, prompting the latter to open fire on the crowd.
Firing ceased by late afternoon, however, two houses caught fire in the exchange. Forces, which already had their hands full with the encounter as well as stone pelters, began combing through the area after fires were put out by fire tenders.
Police said that they faced firing from the stone pelting crowd, as Lashkar tried their level best to save Mattoo.
Among the civilians killed in the crossfire was 34-year-old Mohammad Ashraf Khar, who died Friday morning. He was brought to a district hospital in Bijbehara. He was declared brought dead. The other civilian who died was 15-year-old Ahsan Mushtaq, who died by a bullet hit near the encounter site, according to PTI.
The forces also used IEDs to raze a building. Some eight to nine houses were damaged in the operation. While this encounter took place on Friday afternoon, militants in another part of the state laid an ambush and killed six policemen, including a Station House Officer (SHO) of the Achabal police station.
Militants attacked the vehicle carrying the six police officials in Thajiwara Achabla in Anantnag. The militants, after shooting the officials fatally, took away their rifles and fired at them from a close range disfiguring their bodies. The incident occurred at around 6:30 pm on Friday. The site of this attack was about 17 km from the Arwani encounter site. Militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba has claimed responsibility for the ambush. Senior police officials believe the ambush was carried out to avenge the killing of the militants holed up in Arwani village.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed “deep anguish” over the spate of killings across the Valley within a span of 24 hours, adding that blood of innocents spilt will only lead to destruction and instability instead of peace.
with inputs from agencies