Four rebels of Jaish-e-Mohammad ( JeM) including two Special Police Officers (SPOs)-turned-rebels were killed in a 15-hour-long gunfight with forces in a village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Friday.
A police spokesperson said on a specific information about presence of rebels at Panjran village in Litter area of Pulwama, a cordon and search operation was launched on Thursday evening by joint party comprising army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles, CRPF and Special Operation Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir police.
“As the searches were going on, hiding rebels fired on the search party. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter. A rebel was killed on Thursday evening and his body along with a weapon was retrieved from the site,” he said.
The spokesman said after initial exchange of gunfire between two sides, there was lull for about four hours.
“A fresh contact was established with hiding rebels at around 9 pm and in the ensuing gunfight three more rebels were killed,” he said adding their bodies were retrieved from the encounter site.
The spokesman said four weapons including 3 AK 47 and an SLR were recovered from the encounter site.
According to police, of the four deceased rebels, two were listed rebels and two others were SPOs Mohammad Salman Khan son of Bashir Ahmad Khan of Uthmulla village, Shopian and Shabir Ahmad Dar son of Mohammad Hashim Dar of Tujan village, Pulwama, who had deserted on Thursday morning and JeM.
The two other deceased rebels were identified as Ashiq Hussain Ganaie son Abdul Khaliq Ganie of Panjran village of Pulwama and Imran Ahmad Bhat son of Mohammad Yusuf Bhat of Arihal village of Pulwama.
Salman and Shabir, who were posted as SPOs in District Police Lines Pulwama, had deserted police ranks yesterday morning.
Ashiq and Imran were accused by police of planning and executing series of attacks on forces in the area.
Local residents said two residential house were damaged in the gunfight.
Intense clashes erupted between youth and forces around the site of gunfight.
Soon after the encounter started, youth hit the streets and pelted stones on forces who retaliated by firing teargas smoke shells and pellets. The clashes subsided in the evening but erupted again on Friday morning.
Authorities snapped mobile internet service in Pulwama after the encounter.
The bodies of deceased rebels were later handed over to their heirs for burial.
Thousands of people turned up in the funeral prayers of slain rebels in their respective villages amidst chanting of pro freedom and anti India slogans. After multiple funerals, the slain were laid to rest in their respective villages. A spontaneous shutdown was observed in Pulwama against the rebel killings.
Ashiq alias Talha had joined rebel ranks on May 11, 2018. He had dropped from graduation and was driving a JCB machine before becoming rebel. He is survived by five siblings and father.
Imran joined rebel ranks on January 16, 2019. He had schooling up to 12th and was working as construction worker before turning rebel. He was married and is survived by a daughter and two siblings besides his parents.
Shabir had joined police department a year ago, local residents from Tujan village said. They said he belonged to rich family and used to attend his duties as SPO occasionally. His father is said to be a government employee, who owns around 80 kanals of land.
The locals said the family owns huge apple orchards, which yields around 10,000 boxes of apple per year.
Locals from Uthmullah said Salman joined police as SPO in 2017. He had schooling up to class 12th and is survived by three siblings besides his parents.