A youth was killed and at least four other civilians received injuries when government forces fired at protesters demanding the bodies of two slain local militants post an overnight firefight in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Friday.
A firefight had raged between government force and the group of militants after Chenigam village in the southern district was cordoned off and searches were launched on Thursday.
Clashes between the locals and the government force, consisting of police’s counter-insurgency Special Operation Group, various units of army and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, after the local militants Muhammad Abass Malla and Manzoor ul Haq Malik were killed.
As the gunfight ended and forces started to clear the debris, people who had gathered at a round-about started to march towards the site of firefight.
Witnesses added that forces came under heavy attack near the round-about where the gathering was swelling and amid pro-freedom slogans attacked them and their armoured vehicles with stones. “People from different localities of the district including Kawdrang, Kujar, Frisal, Shirpora, Arwani, Nawbal Batapora, Mushipora, Khudwani, Reidwani, Havro and other areas had gathered at the round-about and were chanting slogans in favour of the slain militants,” a witness said.
In retaliation, witnesses said, forces fired several rounds and a youth Tariq Ahmad Dar received a bullet in his chest.
He was rushed by the protesters to a sub district hospital in Vejbuer of neighbouring Anantnag district, but doctors declared him dead on ‘arrival’.
Block Medical Officer in Vejbuer Dr Mohammad Amin told Kashmir Dispatch that the youth, from Nowbal in Kulgam, had received a bullet injury and died at the hospital.
A medical source said that Tariq’s body was taken by angry protesters from the medical facility to his native village.
Medical sources said that the youth was aged between 24-26 years, but his family said he was 18 and worked as a labourer.
One more civilian Ashiq Hussain also reportedly received injuries.
The family members of the slain youth alleged that Army directly fired upon him after they failed to control the protestors. They said that Tariq was not a part of the protest.
“My son was watching protests at a distance near Kharpora Bridge when army troops directly fired a bullet which hit his heart,” Tariq’s father Muhammad Ismayil Dar said.
“My son was just 18. He was a labourer as I had no resources and income to send him to college,” Dar said, adding that it was a cold blooded murder.
“How can you shower bullets on those having stones in their hands. Army fired upon protestors with an intention to kill,” he said and added that he doesn’t expect justice from the ‘killers’.
Reports said that the slain youth was a close relative of one of the deceased militant, Malla, and was on way to encounter site along with his friends to ‘know about the latest situation’.
Reports said that as the news of the death of youth spread in the area, hundreds of people came on roads and amid pro-freedom slogans clashed with government forces.
Police used tear-smoke shells to disperse the protestors in Chanapora, Chenigam, Kharpora, Nowbal and other adjacent areas.
Police according reports also used canisters to disperse angry protestors near Vejbuer town of Ananatnag district.
Earlier in the morning, a gunfight that had broken between government forces and two local militants had ended after forces used heavy mortar shells to level the houses in which the two militants were believed to be hiding.
Locals said that forces razed five structures to ground while fourteen houses suffered partial damage. “It was war like situation. The intensity of government forces attack was such that for a moment I felt as it was war. Even our cattle became the prey of bullets,” Muhammad Ismayil Dar whose house was completely destroyed said.
A police official said that two army troopers and a paramilitary solider were injured during the encounter. He said that the condition of one of the army trooper is critical.
He said that situation in the area was tense but under control.
In a late evening press briefing, police in Srinagar said: The two militants who were killed are Mohammad Abbas Malla, a resident of Nowpora, and Manzoor ul Haq Malik, a resident of Chinigam.
Both of belonged to Lashkar-i- Toiba.
The press release said: one AK rifle and an Insas rifle has been recovered from the encounter site.”
Abbas, according to police, had joined the Lashkar in 2013 and was involved in an attack on a police patrol in Arwani in 2013 and the recent attack on CRPF at Lavdora in Qazigund.
The police claimed Malik was involved in the killing of Nasir Mir in Shupian in May this year besides he was also involved in Lavdora attack with Malla.
The slain were buried in the martyrs’ graveyard in the village where thousands attended their funeral.