TWO PROTESTERS, including a 15-year-old boy, died as securitymen opened fire to quell protests that broke out at Padgampora village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district following an encounter in the area in which two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were killed, officials said. Ten others were injured in clashes as protesters marched towards the site during the encounter, they said.
Officials said the militants were killed in a joint operation, by soldiers of 55 Rashtriya Rifles, the Special Operation Group of J&K Police and the CRPF, which began at 3 am in the village, 10 km from Pulwama town. The two were identified as Mohammad Shafi Wagey of Kakapora and Jahangir Ahmad Ganie of Koil Pulwama, both affiliated with LeT, active since 2015 and declared as A-category militants.
Officials identified the protesters who died as Amir Nazir, a student from Beghpora, and 22-year-old Jalal-u-din of Tahab, who was killed near Koil, close to the encounter site.
Providing details of the encounter, police said they acted after receiving “specific information” about the presence of two militants inside a house in Padgampora village. “The militants opened fire when the troops started search operations. One militant was soon killed in retaliatory firing while the other continued to fire at the assault party. Once the militant was identified as Wagey, police brought his family members, including his wife, to the site to persuade him to surrender. But he refused to lay down his weapons and was finally killed,” a senior police officer, who was part of the operation, told The Indian Express.
Wagey’s brother, also a militant, was killed in a security operation last year. ”As the encounter was going on, hundreds of youths from neighbouring villages started marching towards the encounter site and clashed with security forces. Even youths from the native places of the trapped militants reached near the site to engage the Army and policemen. They were trying to break the security cordon so that the holed-up militants could escape. The protesters were just metres away from the spot where the encounter was in progress,” said a security official.
”The villagers paid no heed to the police warning that they should remain 2 km away from the site. The protesters started raising slogans and pelting stones at the forces,” said the official.
DIG (South Kashmir Range) S P Pani said police exercised “maximum restraint” while dealing with the protesters. “There was firing from the crowd during the protests that left two jawans injured. During the clashes, a civilian was also killed,” he said.
“Six people with pellet and bullet injuries were brought to our hospital. One was brought dead and later identified as Jalal-u-din. However, we did not find any bullet or pellet injury marks on his body. We are ascertaining the cause of death, including possible suffocation from tear gas smoke or a heart attack. We have referred four of the injured to Srinagar,” said Abdul Rashid Para, medical superintendent at the district hospital in Pulwama.
A defence spokesman confirmed that two militants were killed and two weapons recovered from their possession.
Later, Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq alleged that security forces have started implementing the orders of Army Chief General Bipin Rawat who had said last month that those trying to disrupt operations would be treated as militant overground workers.