Hours after security forces killed three militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba in Dogripora Panzgam in restive south Kashmir, protests erupted Saturday in Pulwama and Tahab. Police said two of the militants were associates of Hizbul south Kashmir commander Burhan Wani.
Train and mobile services were suspended in Pulwama district, but mobile services were restored later in the day.
Eight people were injured in clashes between protesters and security forces after the encounter in which personnel of the Rashtriya Rifles and Special Operations Group (SOG) engaged the militants.
The Army said the three men killed were top militants involved in a series of militancy-related incidents in south Kashmir. The operation was launched Friday evening on a specific intelligence input about the presence of militants in a house in Dogripora, near Panzgam. The house where the militants were hiding was razed to the ground during the encounter.
Army officers called it a “swift encounter” that gave no time to sympathisers to gather in numbers and attempt to overwhelm the security forces, as has happened at encounter sites recently, especially if the militants happen to be from the the area.
Since January, Army and police have killed 13 Hizbul and Lashkar militants in eight different encounters across south Kashmir. In many of these encounters, security forces found themselves under attack from stone-throwing protesters as they engaged militants in firefights.
By the time people started gathering for protests at the encounter site Saturday, the operation teams had finished the job and left, officers said.
The two Hizbul militants killed in the encounter have been identified as Ashfaq Ahmad Dar of Dogripora and Ishfaq Ahmad Baba of Tahab.
“Both were top militants of Hizbul Mujahideen and were active in Awantipura area since 2014. They were involved in a series of militancy-related incidents,’’ police said.
The third was identified as Hasib Ahmad Palla of Brao-Bandyun. Palla was affiliated to the Lashkar-e-Toiba. He had become a militant only last year.
Calling it a “successful operation”, Defence spokesman N N Joshi said: “We had established a cordon late last evening, as the operation progressed to track down the militants who were hiding in a house. They opened fire and a gunbattle ensued which continued intermittently through the night. In the morning, all three militants were killed.’’ He said three AK 47 rifles, six magazines and 85 rounds were recovered.
As the bodies of the three three local youths were handed over to the villagers, protests erupted in Pulwama and Tahab. Police used tear-smoke shells and canes to disperse the crowd. All three militants were buried in the villages they hailed from.
Hospital officials said eight injured people were admitted to the district hospital in Pulwama. Three were referred to Srinagar for treatment. All the injured were from Tahab.
The train service between Srinagar and Banihal was suspended for the day. Mobile and Internet services were also cut but restored later in Pulwama district.
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