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Kashmir counter-terror ops: 12 militants, 3 Armymen killed in three encounters in Valley

The encounters triggered massive protests in South Kashmir, with thousands of people taking to the streets, resulting in fierce clashes. More than 70 protesters were reported to have been injured, some of them hit by pellets in their eyes.

11 militants, 3 Armymen killed in 3 encounters in kashmir At a joint press conference of the Army, police and CRPF, Jammu and Kashmir Police DGP S P Vaid said this was one of the biggest counter-offensives in recent times against terror groups operating in the Kashmir Valley.  (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

In one of the biggest counter-terror operations in recent times, 11 militants were killed in three separate operations in Draggad and Kachdora villages in Shopian district and Dialgam in Anantnag district. While three Army personnel and a civilian were also killed in the encounters, two civilians were killed in the protests that followed.

The encounters triggered massive protests in South Kashmir, with thousands of people taking to the streets, resulting in fierce clashes. More than 70 protesters were reported to have been injured, some of them hit by pellets in their eyes.

According to sources, a joint team of the Army, Jammu and Kashmir Police Special Operations Group and paramilitary forces cordoned off Draggad village early on Sunday morning, following intelligence inputs about the presence of militants. Sources said the militants then entered a cluster of houses, including the ancestral house of an IPS officer serving in Hyderabad.

11 militants, 3 Armymen killed in 3 encounters in kashmir An army personnal walk during a gun battle between suspected militants and security forces in Shopian, south of Srinagar. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

There was a gunfight, in which seven militants and one of the house owners, Mushtaq Ahmad Thoker, were killed. All the militants were reportedly from Shopian district.

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Calling it a “special day” for counter-terror operations in the Valley, Lt General A K Bhatt, General Officer Commanding, 15 Corps, said two of the seven militants — Ishfaq Ahmad Malik and Rayees Ahmad Thokar — were involved in the killing of Lt Ummer Fayaz last May. “We have avenged his death,” he said. “We will carry out kinetic operations” against anybody who uses his weapon, as “we have carried out today,” said Bhatt.

A political activist, Zubair Ahmad Turray, who escaped from custody last year and joined militant ranks, was also killed in the gunfight. Police have identified the other dead militants as Nazim Nazir Dar, Ubaid Shafi Malla, Adil Ahmad Thoker, Yawar Ahmad Itoo. Barring Nazim, who was from the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the other six militants were from the Hizbul Mujahideen.

In a separate gunbattle following a similar cordon-and-search operation at Kachdora, about 20 kms from Draggad, three militants and three soldiers were killed. The exchange of fire continued for several hours. The bodies of the militants were recovered in the evening, from the rubble of the houses damaged in the encounter. Police said they were yet to identify the dead militants.

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While the encounter was going on, hundreds of youth from Kachdora and surrounding villages took to the streets and pelted stones at the security forces. The police and paramilitary forces fired pellets and opened fire on the protesters. Two civilians, Zubair Ahmad Bhat and Mehraj-ud-din, were killed while over 40 were injured. Over 20 of the injured youths suffered pellet injuries in their eyes.

As thousands of people participated in Turray’s funeral in Shopian, security forces fired pellets and teargas shells, resulting in more injuries. While most of the injured were taken to hospitals in Shopian and Kulgam, over 30 were referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment.

11 militants, 3 Armymen killed in 3 encounters in kashmir According to sources, a joint team of the Army, Jammu and Kashmir Police Special Operations Group and paramilitary forces cordoned off Draggad village early on Sunday morning, following intelligence inputs about the presence of militants.  (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

“We have received 34 injured at our hospital today from Shopian,” said Dr Saleem Tak, Medical Superintendent, SMHS Hospital in Srinagar. “One of them suffered bullet injury while 33 were hit by pellets. Most of them were hit in their eyes.” he said.

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In a separate encounter at Dialgam in neighbouring Anantnag district, a militant was killed while his associate was arrested after he surrendered. Police identified the dead militant as Rouf Bashir Khanday. Sources identified the militant who surrendered as Imran, who joined militancy recently.

11 militants, 3 Armymen killed in 3 encounters in kashmir The encounters triggered massive protests in South Kashmir, with thousands of people taking to the streets, resulting in fierce clashes. More than 70 protesters were reported to have been injured, some of them hit by pellets in their eyes. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

At a joint press conference of the Army, police and CRPF, Jammu and Kashmir Police DGP S P Vaid said this was one of the biggest counter-offensives in recent times against terror groups operating in the Kashmir Valley. He also made a special mention of the Anantnag SSP’s efforts to convince a militant to surrender during the Dialgam encounter. He said the SSP called up the family of the militant, who spoke to him for over 30 minutes. However, the militant didn’t surrender.

On the operation at Kachdora, the DGP said they had received information about the presence of four-five militants. “We will be able to give a clear picture only after the debris is cleared,” he said.

Confirming the toll, Vaid told The Indian Express: “I think, this (operations) will lead to an improvement in situation. I am hoping that the situation will improve.”

11 militants, 3 Armymen killed in 3 encounters in kashmir (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

GoC Bhatt said there are 250 active militants in the Valley, of which “nearly 50 per cent are local”. Of this, about 120 are believed to be active in South Kashmir. He said it was “painful” to witness the loss of young lives, and appealed to parents of militants to urge them to return home.

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Stating that the law and order situation in Shopian was “unprecedented”, IG CRPF Zulfiqar Hassan said the forces would handle the crowd with restraint but “will not shy away from taking strict action”. Urging people to stay away from encounter sites, he said: “Where there are heavily armed militants, anybody could get killed or hurt, as it has happened today.”

Though the killing of 11 militants in a single day is a major success for the security forces, it has put South Kashmir on the edge once again. Soon after news of the encounters spread, a shutdown was observed in different parts of the Valley and the youth took to the streets, pelting stones at police and paramilitary forces.

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While the separatists called a two-day shutdown, the state government announced closure of educational institutes on Monday. The government also snapped mobile Internet in south Kashmir and Srinagar. — With inputs from Naveed Iqbal in Awantipora

First published on: 02-04-2018 at 03:21 IST
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