Arwani Encounter: The Complete Story

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by Muhammad Younis

SRINAGAR: The encounter that started on Thursday between the army and militants in Arwani finally ended late night with the killing of four militants. The quadruple were from Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-Toiba. The curtains fell on the incident by Friday noon when all the four were laid to rest.

Thousands of people participated in the funeral procession of slain militant Sahir Makroo at his native village Arwani in south Kashmir on Thursday, October 26, 2018.KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Police and civilian sources identified the slain four as Sahir Makroo of Arwani, Owais Ahmad Lone from Hawoora-Mishpora area of Kulgam, Muzamil Magray of Watoo Aharbal and Amir Tantray of Damhal Hanjipora Kulgam.

Police sources said following a tip-off about the presence of militants, the army and the SOG of Jammu and Kashmir police launched a search operation in Kharmohalla locality of Arwani at around 4 pm. As the forces zeroed in on a house where militants were suspected to be hiding, “the militants resorted to indiscriminate firing and tried to escape. But they were confronted by the forces in an open field,” said a police official. “There was a brief gunfight.”

The police added that first, only three bodies were retrieved from the site. But as the forces started searching again, it turned out that one more militant was hiding in another house, who opened fire. The fire was retaliated, triggering a fierce gunfight, and resulted in his death too.

But residents told a different story to a Kashmir Life reporter.

The locals said that the militants had actually come to pay condolences to the family of one of their colleagues, Yazil Mukroo, who was one of the three militants killed in the Laroo encounter. Sahir Makroo, one of Yazil’s friends and relatives, had actually come to see the family that the attack followed.

Funeral procession of slain militant Owais Lone at his native village in Hawoora village.
KL Image by Shah Hilal

“All the four were sitting near a shop-front, when army men in plain clothes turned up at the spot around 5 pm, and fired indiscriminately at them,” one resident said. “The militants didn’t get the time to even open their weapons.” In the very first round, three militants were killed immediately. One of them, however, tried to beat a hasty retreat, but couldn’t. Injured, he had moved out of the scene and stayed around a haystack, in an injured condition. But soon, the army men traced him and killed him as well.

There was no damage to any property. “Only the marks of three bullet shots could be found on the walls of the house, where the fourth militant was killed,” said the reporter.

The police took over the bodies of the slain militants with them. They later permitted the families to identify them under the formal process that is already in place. The bodies were handed over to the families late in the evening. The respective families did not bury them because of late hours.

Funerals

Several rounds of funeral prayers were offered to the slain militants in their respective villages. Reports said all the four funerals were well attended. Huge gathering were reported from Arwani, Hawoora, Watoo (Aharbal) and Damhal Hanjipor villages. Multiple rounds of funeral prayers were offered to Owais Lone, Muzamil Magray and Amir Tantray. Arwami witnessed one of the major gatherings as people from different areas assembled for Makroo’s funeral.

Mother of slain militant Sahir Makroo mourning.
Kl Image by Bilal Bahadur

Barring Arwani, all other three areas fall in the territorial jurisdiction of Kulgam district. In certain areas, the funerals were followed by clashes between the police and the youth.

Some family members of Makroo, the slain militant, said he was slapped with PSA for being an Over Ground Worker (OGW) of militants in 2015. After he moved out of jail after five months, he joined militancy. He is survived by two little brothers and five unmarried sisters. He was a twelfth class student. Owais Lone, on the other hand, was a first-year student. He had got distinction in twelfth class.

Protests

After all the slain were laid to rest in their respective areas, people hit the roads. Reports said that scores of the youth from Khudwani, Redwani, and its adjoining areas took to streets and clashed with the police and paramilitary forces. While youth resorted to stone pelting, the police and CRPF resorted to tear smoke shells and sued shotguns at various places.

A local news gathering agency said at least 20 persons were injured in the alleged use of bullets, and pellets in the two south Kashmir’s Anantnag and Kulgam. Clashes were reported from Anantnag, Redwani, Arwani, Wanpora, Khudwani, Bijbehara, Hawoora-Mishpora, Watoo Aharbal, and Damhal Hanjipora.

“We received five injured persons,” Medical Superintendent Anantnag Dr Abdul Majeed Mehrab told GNS. “Out of them, three had pellet wounds in the body and two had firearm injuries in their legs,”. He said that all the injured have been referred to Srinagar hospitals for advanced treatment.

A doctor at sub-district hospital Bijbehara said that two injured persons including one with pellet injuries and another firearm leg were received at the hospital.

An official from Kulgam said that at least 13 persons were injured in clashes in parts of Kulgam including Redwani. Among them, the official said, three received bullet wounds and were referred to Srinagar hospital.

There was a road accident reported from the area in which around 30 mourners were injured. They were returning from the funeral of a militant in Watoo belt of Ahrabal when their vehicle met an accident near Koril village. They had gone to attend the funeral prayers of slain militant Muzamil Ahmad. All the injured were rushed to district hospital Kulgam for treatment.

Police Version

“October 25 At Khar Mohalla of Arwani in Bijbehara district Anantnag, Police and army launched a cordon and search operation based on credible input about the presence of the militants in the area.

As the search operation was going on, hiding militants fired upon the search party, which was retaliated leading to an encounter. In the ensuing encounter, four militants were neutralized. The identity of the killed terrorists is being ascertained.

Incriminating materials including arms & ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter. Police has registered a case in this regard and investigation has been initiated in the instant matter.

Citizens are once again requested not to venture inside the site of the encounter since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials. People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosives materials if any.”

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