Updated: March 23, 2021 8:26:17 am
Four militants were killed in a gunbattle with security forces in South Kashmir’s Shopian late on Sunday night. All four were locals, and had been militants for less than six months, police said.
An Army soldier was injured in the exchange of fire that took place at Manihal village in Shopian.
Police said the militants chose not to surrender even after the wife and children — a son and a daughter — of one of the four men were brought to the encounter site to appeal to them to give up the fight.
A video from the spot showed a five-year-old boy appealing to his father to come out of hiding.
“The four local militants were killed after they refused the offer to surrender,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir Vijay Kumar said at a press conference.
“We also brought the wife of one of the militants to persuade him, but the militants opened fire from inside the house,” he said.
Police cordoned off the area in the intervening night of Sunday and Monday after receiving information about the presence of militants in the village.
As the joint team of forces zeroed in on the house they were in, the militants opened fire, triggering a gunfight that ended with the killing of the trapped men.
Police identified the killed militants as Rayees Ahmad Bhat, Aqib Ahmad Malik, Aftab Ahmad Wani, and Amir Shafi Mir. Bhat, Malik, and Wani joined the militants’ ranks in October, November, and December last year; Mir became a militant only a month ago.
“All of them were categorised as militants, and figured as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants in our list,” IGP Kumar said. One of them was armed with an AK rifle; the other three had a pistol each, police said.
“Our focus is on surrender of local militants during or before an encounter,” IGP Kumar said. “Till 2 am, we were hoping that there would be surrender (in Manihal).”
Joint teams of security forces have killed 19 militants in nine operations in the Valley since January 21, Kumar said. Eight of these nine gunbattles had taken place in South Kashmir, he said. Eighteen youths have joined militant ranks in recent days, and seven have “returned to the mainstream”, Kumar said.
According to Kumar, “law and order” was a bigger problem for security forces than the militancy. They would continue to be tough with protesters, he said.
“If there is militant attack, schools and colleges do not get closed, economic activities are not hampered, (Amarnath) yatra does not stop, nor do tourists stop coming (to the Valley). In contrast, when there is any law and order issue, tourists fear to come to the Valley, schools and colleges are closed, and the yatra is halted. Stone pelting is a bigger issue, and we take it more seriously,” Kumar said, when asked to explain the pattern of response that saw the police slapping protesters with the Public Safety Act (PSA) while appealing to militants to surrender.
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