Four Hizbul Mujahideen militants were killed in Shopian in a pre-dawn joint operation which also left an Army paratrooper dead. At least 10 civilians, including two women, were injured in clashes triggered by the killing in south Kashmir’s Shopian and Pulwama districts.
A joint team of J&K Police, Army and paramilitary forces cordoned off Nadigam village in Shopian early on Tuesday morning after receiving specific inputs about the presence of militants in the village. As the team zeroed in on the target area, militants hiding in the village opened fire, triggering a gunfight. A paratrooper from the Army’s 23 para regiment was injured and immediately rushed to hospital where he succumbed.
The gunbattle lasted several hours, ending with the killing of all the four militants trapped in the cordon. “Police and security forces, on a credible input about the presence of terrorists in Nadigam area, launched a cordon and search operation in the predawn hours today. As the search operation was going on, the search party was confronted with bullets fired by the hiding terrorists. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter,” the J&K Police said in an official statement. “In the initial exchange of fire, one Army jawan identified as H C Vijay of 23 Para sustained injuries and was evacuated to hospital for medical treatment where he succumbed. In the ensuing encounter, four terrorists were eliminated and the bodies were retrieved from the site.”
Police have identified the militants as Shopian residents Abid Nazir Chopan, Basharat Nengroo, Mehraj-ud-Din Najar and Malikzada Inam-ul-Haq. Abid, an engineering student and son of a mainstream political activist, had joined militant ranks this year.
Shopian district has seen a spurt in violence in the past two weeks. At least six militants were killed in the district this week, and militants abducted at least eight civilians from different villages and killed two of them on suspicion of being informers.
A senior police officer posted in south Kashmir attributed the encounters to decreasing foliage in the area during the winter. He said that during summers, militants take advantage of dense apple orchards in the district and move in the forest areas surrounding it. “With the onset of winter, they move towards the villages. Also they are bereft of cover provided by the dense orchards during the winter,” he said.