The Indian Army and CRPF on Saturday gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen militant Sabzar Ahmad Bhat in Tral area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district after a hour-long encounter. Bhat was a close aide of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul commander slain last year. Another militant was also killed with Bhat. He has been identified as Faizaan Muzaffar, 15, who dropped out of school to join the Hizbul Mujahideen in March this year.
The news of Bhat’s death triggered protests and stone-pelting across the Valley. A protester was killed in Tral and over 60 others were injured as security forces fired bullets and pellets in several places in South Kashmir. The state government has snapped mobile Internet, re-banned social media sites, and imposed curfew in several parts of the Valley. The separatists have called for a complete shutdown for two days.
Here is everything you need to know about the encounter and its aftermath:
— The security forces closed down all exit points from Saimoo village and cordoned it off to conduct a search operation. The village located in Tral is located at 36 km from state summer capital Srinagar. The encounter had started on Friday evening itself when militants from the group ambushed a group of soldiers from 42 Rashtriya Rifles in Tral. The forces had information about top Hizbul Mujahideen militants were hiding in the village. When the security forces closed in on the house where the militants were holed up, the ultras opened fire on the approaching troops. The forces returned fire and a gunbattle ensued.
— Around noon, reports started coming in that protests had begun. Five were reported in Anantnag. An audio message began doing rounds on social media, urging residents to come tothe encounter site and pelt stones at the security forces. Despite a few TV channels airing the tape, the authenticity of the audio tape, however, was not verified by any outlet.
— The Jammu and Kashmir Police confirmed on their unverified Twitter handle just after noon that they, along with other security forces, had killed two militants in Tral including Sabzar. The two were among eight killed in separate encounters across the state on Saturday.
— During and after the encounter, a large number of villagers attempted to march in protest to the encounter site. The security forces had to fire tear gas shells to disperse the crowd and use pellet guns to break the protests. The protest was happening in Rathsun village of Tral, which is a few hundred metres away from the encounter site. Several civilians were injured during the protests. The protests then spread to at least four districts in south Kashmir, which saw clashes between civilians and security forces.
— Violent protests sparked across the valley in a matter of hours. A couple of hours after the announcement of Bhat’s killing, shutdowns were announced in several parts of Kashmir. Protests were seen in all major towns and districts in the valley particularly in Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam, Pulwama, Badgam, Ganderbal, Srinagar and Kupwara. Following the shutdowns, the chief judicial magistrate’s court sent a Naseer Ahmed, suspected to be a Hizbul militant to 14-day custody. Ahmed was arrested this May from the Indo-Nepal border by the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
— In it’s statement on Saturday evening, the army said that it had killed 10 militants since Friday. Meanwhile, a civilian was killed in a protest. At least two dozen were reported injured. According to reports, the civilian was killed in the crossfiring between the police and the security forces.
— The Hurriyat Conference called for a two-day valley-wide shutdown on Saturday evening. At least 60 people were killed and five security personnel also suffered bullet injuries.
— District Magistrate Farooq Lone announced that curfew will be imposed at seven police station areas of Srinagar as a precautionary measure to restrict the spread of violent protests. It was imposed in Khanyar, Kralkhud, Maharaj Gunj, Maisuma, Nowhatta, Rainawari and Safakadal police station area. Also, educational institutions in Srinagar will stay closed on Monday.– Restrictions have also been imposed in Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian districts in south Kashmir and in the township of Sopore in north Kashmir, according to officials. They added that restrictions on
— Restrictions have also been imposed in Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian districts in south Kashmir and in the township of Sopore in north Kashmir, according to officials. They added that restrictions on movement of people under Section 144 CrPc have been imposed in the districts of Budgam and Ganderbal in central Kashmir to maintain law and order.– Internet connectivity was withdrawn on Saturday itself and outgoing facility on prepaid numbers has been stopped as well in the valley.
— Internet connectivity was withdrawn on Saturday itself and outgoing facility on prepaid numbers has been stopped as well in the valley.Bhat was buried at a graveyard in
Bhat was buried at a graveyard in Ratsuna area of Tral where hundreds of people had gathered. He joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in April 2015 — after Burhan Wani’s brother, Khalid Muzaffar, was reported to have been killed in an encounter. At Muzaffar’s funeral procession in Tral, Bhat snatched a rifle from a CRPF personnel guarding a bunker and went underground. Within a short period, Bhat gained Wani’s trust and became one of his close associates.