- 5 militants, 5 civilians killed in Shopian gunfight and protests
- Over 120 injured in clashes with forces
- Soldiers came twice before getting the militants third time
- Valley observes shutdown against killings on Saturday
- Educational institutions closed for Monday
- KU, IUST defer exams scheduled today
Before the government forces got their biggest catch since Burhan Wani’s death at the break of dawn on Sunday the search parties had twice returned disappointed from Bhat house.
But the five rebels were not lucky the third time.
A joint team of Army and police’s Special Operation Group (SOG) had laid a cordon around the neighbourhood at midnight illuminating it with flood lights. An orchardist, Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, in whose house the militants were trapped, had sensed the danger.
His worst fear came true as the muezzin called for prayers in the local mosque. A group of SOG men knocked at his door asking the family to come out. Sensing the danger, the 60-year-old Bhat, his wife, two daughters and son, Firdous Ahmad, soon rushed out.
“But the forces took my son along for searching our house,” said Bhat at the house of his neighbor, surrounded by a group of elderly men, occasionally looking through the window at the charred walls of his house which he had constructed only last year.
Less than 20-minutes later, he said, they (forces) came out with “empty hands”.
The Bhat family thought the soldiers had retreated.
“They again turned up to search my house but couldn’t find anything. And that is when a large party of Army men and SOG personnel barged in taking my son along again. Within minutes we heard the bullet sounds,” Bhat said.
Two of the soldiers Army and SOG were injured during the initial exchange of fire between the hiding militants and the search party inside the house.
“Then, bullets rained at my house and forces fired mortar shells as the encounter went on,” said Bhat.
By the time clock struck 9 in the morning the forces launched a “final assault”, setting the house on fire and killing all the five militants including top commander Saddam Paddar of Heff, Shopian.
One of those killed was an assistant professor Dr Muhammad Rafi of Ganderbal who had gone missing only two days ago from Kashmir University.
Another militant Adil Malik of Malikgund Shopian was one of the longest surviving rebels while Tauseef Sheikh of Rampur (Qaimoh) was the nephew of Hizb commander Abbas Sheikh.
The fifth slain militant was Bilal Moulvi, a former government employee.
The killings are the “second major success” for government forces in little over a month after 13 militants were killed in three separate encounters on April 1 in Shopian and Anantnag.
Last Monday another top rebel Sameer Tiger and his associate Auqib Ahmad Khan were killed by the forces in a gunfight in Drabgam.
Sunday’s firefight ended around noon when soldiers retrieved all the five bodies from the encounter site. But by then thousands of people from different parts of southern Kashmir had started marching towards the village.
Muzaffar Hussain, a villager said when the news about encounter spread in the morning hundreds of youth from nearby villages rushed towards the encounter site and pelted stones on the forces, in a bid to help militants escape.
“But they were not allowed to move beyond the outer cordon by the forces who fired bullets and pellets at them (youth) resulting in injuries to many of them,” he said.
Later in the day thousands of people participated in the funerals of the slain militants.
Amid heavy rains people including women marched on foot to the native villages of the slain militants to have a last glimpse of their “heroes”.
There was an unending queue of motorbikes and cars parked at the entrance of the villages as people from different districts arrived to participate in the funerals.
At least 10 rebels including Zeenta-ul-Islam made appearance at the funeral of their fallen commander and his associate, Padder and Moulvi and offered gun salutes. Militants also offered gun salutes at the funeral of Sheikh and Adil.
At least 121 youth were injured in clashes with the forces in South Kashmir after the encounter at Badigam Shopian where five militants and five civilians were killed on Sunday.
A doctor at district hospital Shopian told Kashmir Post that they received at least 60 youth who were injured near the encounter site and its adjoining areas. “Of them, 12 were hit by bullets, 13 were hit by pellets and they were referred to Srinagar hospitals for treatment. In addition to that at least 35 people with minor injuries many of which were received in pellet firing were treated and discharged from the hospital,” he said.
At the D K Pora hospital 22 injured youth were received including three who were hit by bullets while five others received pellets. Among them eight were referred to Srinagar.
According to officials, Zainapora hospital alone received 35 injured, four among them were referred to Srinagar for treatment. The district hospital Pulwama received four injured including one hit by bullets while three others received pellet injuries.
Medical Superintendent SMHS, Dr Saleem Tak, told Kashmir Post that they received 35 injured youth from south Kashmir among whom eight have bullet injuries.
“8 youth have bullet injury and two of them were referred to Bone and Joint Hospital for specialised treatment. 27 have pellet injury, among them, 9 have been hit in one eye only and rest of them have pellets on other body parts,” he said.
Two civilians hit by bullets were taken to SMHS in a critical condition from Shopian. They were declared dead at the hospital’s trauma theatre following which youth attending them raised pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. The youth Nasir Ahmed Kumar was declared dead at SMHS.
Earlier, Nasir had sustained a bullet injury in his stomach during clashes near the gunfight site in Badigam village. Among the bullet-hit was Ghulam Jeelani, a 50-year-old of Uthmullah who received injury in the arm due to a bullet fired by government forces at Badigam encounter site.
“They were a group of people near sumo stand Nagbal. As the encounter at Badigam ended government forces resorted to indiscriminate firing and targeted them,” an eyewitness from Nagbal told Kashmir Post at SMHS. Another bullet-hit was identified as Shahid Ahmad, 20-year-old of Yaripora Kulgam. He has bullet injury in both the legs and stomach.
A witness from Badigam at the hospital said, “At 5:30 in the morning there were two vehicles of government forces who had taken position near the encounter site. “A group of youth went to the site to help the militants to escape from the site. But they were attacked with tear gas shells. Soon after that government forces cordoned the area,” he said.
Among the nine pellet-hit youth, Shoib of Nagbal Shopian was hit by a pellet in the right eye near the site of encounter. Shoib, a 7th standard student was hit when forces fired on civilians who had gathered to take away the injured to treatment.
Another victim Irshad Ahmad Koochay of Sangerwani village was working as a labourer at Pulwama. The 18-year-old was hit when youth were trying to move towards the encounter site at Badigam village of Shopian district.
MS Saleem Tak also said that the injured are being treated at the hospital. “All bullet hit are being treated. One hit by a bullet in abdomen needs surgery,” he said.
An ophthalmologist at the hospital said two pellet-hit youth fled away from the hospital as they were nervous and reluctant to reveal their identity. “6 hit by the pellet in one eye were operated,” he said.