The gunfight that started on Saturday evening between militants and a joint team of police, Army and paramilitary forces at Tral in south Kashmir ended on Sunday when the security personnel blew up the house the militants were holed up in. Aqib Ahmad, a close associate of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, was killed in the encounter.
Another militant, Hamas, is believed to have been killed in the encounter but police are yet to find his body. Hamas, it is learnt, is a Pakistan resident.
A personnel of J&K Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG), Manzoor Ahmad Naik, was killed in the encounter. Five personnel — an Army Major, two soldiers, a constable of SOG and a CRPF personnel — were injured.
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“The gunfight has ended. We have recovered the body of one militant so far,” DIG, south Kashmir, S P Pani told The Indian Express. “The search operation is still on.”
According to police sources, Aqib joined militancy more than four years ago and was a close associate of Burhan. He also featured in photographs uploaded by Burhan as part of Hizb’s social media campaign to attract youth.
The security personnel had a tough time during the encounter as hundreds of youth from different parts of Tral moved towards the site and hurled stones at them. This, despite a recent warning by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat that those attacking security forces during anti-militancy operations will face tough action.
Residents in several villages of Tral set up stalls to offer water and food to the stone-pelters. When police failed to break the protests with teargas shells, they resorted to firing pellets and warning shots in air to disperse the stone-pelters. As the situation was turning out of control, the security team blew up the house.
On Sunday morning, DGP S P Vaid had told mediapersons that two militants had been killed in the operation. But on Sunday afternoon, when a team of J&K Police was clearing the debris of the house, one of the militants, believed to be Aqib, stood up from under the debris and opened indiscriminate fire, wounding a policeman critically.
The gunfight started on Saturday evening when the security personnel launched an operation at Heffo village in Tral after receiving information of the presence of militants. As soon as the joint team cordoned of the village, youth, including women, took to the streets and tried to break the cordon.
Tral has been a stronghold of militants in south Kashmir for more than a decade now. Hizbul commander Burhan was from Tral. Zakir Rashid, who reportedly succeeded Burhan, is also from the same town. Another top militant commander Sabzar is also from Tral.