A 12-year-old boy held hostage in Bandipora for around nine hours was killed Friday by militants before they were gunned down by security forces, police said. While the boy’s uncle, who was also held hostage was rescued Thursday, police said militants refused to let the boy out despite pleas on loudspeakers by his family.
Until Friday morning, Shareefa Jan, held hope that her 12-year-old son, Atif Mir, might come out alive amid the raging gunfight between militants and security forces in north Kashmir’s Hajin village. But when the 24-hour gun battle ended in the afternoon, that hope shattered.
A Jammu and Kashmir Police spokesperson said two militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba had taken two civilians as hostages. “He (Atif) was brutally killed by the terrorists and could not be rescued from the clutches of terrorists. Two militants were killed in the encounter,” the spokesperson said.
Atif and his uncle, Abdul Hameed, were abducted when the family tried to flee the house as security forces cordoned off the area.
“The whole night I was praying for his life. Why anyone would kill him? He was just 12,” Shareefa Jan, Atif’s mother told The Indian Express. “I pleaded before the militants to release him but they refused to allow my son come out. What had my son done to them? He was too young to be dead.”
The charred body of Atif was recovered from the debris of their three-storey house, which was almost reduced to rubble in the operation. Police said that the slain militants have been identified as Ali and Hubaib, both Pakistani nationals.
At Mir Mohalla of Hajin village, the family of Mohammed Shafi Mir was in shock and inconsolable after losing their only son. Videos of the family surfaced on social media Friday, in which they are seen making emotional appeals to the militants to release the boy. “For God’s sake please release them. Have some mercy on us, please release them. I am appealing to you. What is our fault?” said a woman from the family in one video.
Atif studied nearby at the Good Will School in Class VI and his father, Mohammed Shafi Mir, is a known businessman in the village.
Mir said he was in his shop in the morning when the village was cordoned off. “Maybe the militants thought that they can be saved by taking my son hostage,” said Mir at his brothers home, where mourners gathered throughout the day.
According to him, senior police officers tried hard to rescue his son. “They delayed the operation until yesterday evening, but the militants didn’t release my son,” he said. Villagers said security forces involved family members, the local community and also the local magistrate to appeal to the militants.
“Announcements were made on loudspeakers in the village. No doubt that the forces made serious efforts. But maybe the boy’s life could have been saved if the security forces would have called off the operation completely,” said a villager, standing near the debris of the Mir’s house. “Had the Army left withdrawing the operation, the militants may have released the boy.”
At Mir Mohalla, villagers also wonder what compelled the militants to not release a 12-year-old boy and the outrage against the two militants is visible. “Militants are there to fight and die. But, whatever happened with the boy is very unfortunate. This shouldn’t have happened and the militants should have released him. We don’t know the reason why militants didn’t release him…,” said another villager.
SSP Bandipora Rahul Malik claimed that one of the slain militants Ali, wanted to marry the daughter of the owner of the house but the family did not agree.
“The terrorists killed the minor boy in revenge,” he said, adding that they delayed the operation by nine hours Thursday to rescue the boy. He also said that when the mother of the civilian was sent inside, the militants fired.