A joint operation by Jammu and Kashmir Police and the security forces in Batote town of Ramban district on Saturday gunned down three Hizbul Mujahideen militants in an encounter and rescued all eight members of a family who were held hostage by the trio, according to the police.
A soldier was killed and two policemen sustained injuries during the firefight, which lasted nearly three hours, the police said. Identity of the slain soldier was not immediately known.
The deceased soldier was identified as Naik Rajendra Singh, 27, from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. Singh’s wife Jamana Kanwar survive him, Defence Ministry spokesperson Lt Colonel Devender Anand said.
The three Hizbul Mujahideen operatives were reportedly involved in the murder of a senior BJP leader Anil Parihar and his brother Ajit in Kishtwar last year. According to the police, they also killed RSS functionary Chander Kant Sharma and his PSO in April this year.
According to police information, the trio was also responsible for snatching an AK-47 rifle from the PSO of Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner Angrez Singh Rana in March this year and snatched a similar weapon from the PSO of PDP’s district president Sheikh Nasir earlier this month, the police said.
A police officer identified two of the slain militants as Osama, who came from Kishtwar, and Moin-ul-Islam, who came from the Valley. “The third one appears to be Haroon. But we have called his parents to identify the body to be sure about his identity,’’ the officer said.
According to the officer, the three were involved in all four killings and the two incidents of snatching weapons in Kishtwar town, beginning with the Parihar brothers’ killings on November 1 last year.
Inspector General of Police (Jammu zone) Mukesh Singh reached Batote from Jammu to supervise the operation.
Sources said the militants initially tried to stop a Doda-bound bus at Thor village, nearly 7 km from Batote, around 6.30 am. But the driver reportedly sped off.
Later, as a Territorial Army (TA) patrol team passed through the area, the hiding trio thought they were being cordoned off and threw grenades and opened fire at the TA team, who fired back, forcing the militants to flee, a police officer said.
While security and police reinforcements reached the area and started a combing operation, the militants, in the meantime, reached Batote town and barged into a house. They took eight people, including two women and two children, hostage. The police and Army personnel cordoned the house and managed to rescue all the hostages, except Vijay Kumar, 52, a tailor.
After efforts to persuade the militants to release Kumar failed, the forces killed all three militants and rescued the last hostage safely, the officer said.