Batagund Encounter: The Complete Story

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by Masood Hussain

SRINAGAR: In an overnight operation, six militants and an army man were killed in Batagund village near Kapran. In the subsequent protests and police action, one civilian was killed and many others were reported injured. The entire south Kashmir belt remained tense as transport fled away from roads and the authorities enforced an e-curfew by withdrawing the internet facilities to parts of the region.

Melancholic mother of Numan Ashraf Bhat attempting feeding her slain son on November 25, 2018. The teenager was hit by a bullet in Batagund village during the clashes when an encounter was underway. Six militants were killed in the gun battle. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The army man, who was killed in the encounter, also belongs to south Kashmir. He was a resident of Ashmuji village.  Another army man who was hit by the militant fire during the initial fire exchange was injured and is reportedly stable.

This is the second major encounter in the belt in last one week. Earlier, on Friday six militants were killed in a Bejbehara village. However, Sunday encounter took place in a village that is on the border of Shopian and Kulgam districts and is the same spot where the militants kidnapped and killed a cop and two Special Police Officials (SPO) on September 21, 2018. South Kashmir especially the Shopian, Pulwama and Kulgam districts are witnessed frequent gun battles between the militants and the counterinsurgent forces of army and police. In the last three days 17 persons, mostly militants, were killed in the region.

The Detail

Residents told Kashmir Life that they saw the village being taken into the cordon at around 11 pm. By 12:15 in the night, they heard the first fire shot. Then again, at around 1:35 am, the exchange of fire started and continued with interruptions till the wee hours of the day.

“For the whole night, the army was moving quickly and in good numbers to the spot of the incident,” residents, living in the belt, said. “This was aimed at strengthening the cordon so that none of the trapped militants escapes.” The police and the CRPF had tightly sealed the exit and entry points into the village. The village is accessed from Kulgam and Shopian aside and both the treks were completely sealed off.

By morning when the encounter was almost in its last stage, youth attempted disrupting the operation. There were clashes in which various persons were injured. One of them, a 16-year old boy from Bolsoo village, was killed when a bullet hit him.

The militants were holed up in the home of Basher Ahmad Ganai. Initially, residents said, the militants were holed up in his new home. After it went up in flames, the militants barged into his older home. Eventually, both the houses were destroyed in the encounter.

The remains of the two houses after an encounter in which six militants and a soldier were killed in Batgund Shopian on November 25, 2018. KL Image: Shah Hilal

By the time the encounter was over, thousands of people were on the roads from Kulgam as well as Shopian side. In order to avoid clashes, the army and the police took a route to Shopian through Watu and Ahrabal. When it reached Shopian, it had a brief clash with the angry youth in the periphery of the town. Later, some youth resorted to stone pelting at the District Police Lines as well. In retaliation, a vehicle and a few scooters went up in flames, reports said.  In order to ensure that the law and order situation does not deteriorate further, the police handed over the bodies to the families gradually with at least half an hour gap.

Of the six militants killed in the encounter, five were identified by the police and handed over to the respective families.

Umar Majid Ganai who was operating under the code names of Abu Hanzla and Gazala was the top most wanted, militant. Basically operating since December 12, 2015, according to official records, Ganai was heading the Hizb ul-Mujahideen in the district. He is the same militant whose photograph in the Lal Chowk appeared on the social media in wake of recent reports that the Hizb had a meeting in Srinagar. There were a number of photographs that appeared on social media suggesting the meeting actually took over. But there was no confirmation from any security agency.

Waseem Ahmad Wagay was his Deputy, a resident of Amshipora in Shopian, he was one of the five militants from his village and probably the last one. He has been active since December 2016. Reports said he was one of the militants who had escaped from the Kachdoora encounter in April 2018.

Khalid Farooq, another militant who was killed in the encounter, was a resident of Aliyalpora in Shopian outskirts. He had been with militants for almost a year. Police sources said he had fled from Khudpora operation in which two militants and the house owner were killed, last fortnight.

Mohammad Abbas Bhat, another Hizb militant killed in the gun-battle was a resident of Montribugh in Shopian. He has been active since September 2016.

Not far away lived Mushtaq Ahmad Mir, a Lashkar-e-Toiba recruit who was resident of Chak-e-Cholan. Since he was operating since early 2014, local sources said he was perhaps the oldest surviving militant of the group that was killed in the encounter.

Police said one of the militants is yet to be identified but is most probably a foreigner.

Soldier Killed

In the encounter, one army man was also killed. Incidentally, he is also a local from the same region. Identified as Nazir Ahmad, he basically belonged to the 162-Territorial Army. Off late, however, he had been deployed with the 34-Rashtriya Rifles.

Army man Nazir Ahmad who was killed in an encounter at Batgund Kapran on November 25, 2018.

A resident of Chak-e-Ashmuji, Nazir lived in a nuclear family with his wife, Jabeena, a school teacher and two sons. One of his sons is studying outside and another was studying locally. Residents said he was adjusted in the TA when army gave jobs to a number of local Ikhwan cadres. While his father is not alive, all his four brothers live separately.

Civilians Injured

Clashes erupted early during the day in the periphery of the village. It was the spot where Numan Ashraf Bhat was hit by a bullet. He succumbed to his injuries while being driven to the hospital. He had a bullet on his chest.

The 16-year old Bhat was basically a resident of Boulsoo in Kulgam. Eldest of the three brothers, the son of a band saw owner had just finished his examination for the matriculation. His grieving relatives told Kashmir Life that Bhat and his two friends left their home at around 10 am on a bike. The next, they knew was that Bhat was hit by a bullet and then the information came that he is no more.

A kid was hit by pellets Batgund village during the clashes when an encounter was underway on November 25, 2018. KL image by Bilal Bahadur

His melancholic mother broke hearts of the mourners when she brought out a pot of milk and started feeding her dead son. The slain boy is survived by his parents and two brothers, 12-year-old Nadeem, and another barely 60-days old.

Reports said that Numan was not the only person who was injured in the clashes that broke out when the encounter was in its last stage. The clashes continued for some more time later.

The hospital in Shopian received five injured persons of whom two were referred to SMHS hospital in Srinagar. Most of them had pellet injuries.

Most of the injured, however, were treated at the primary health centre at Mohmmadpora and Kulgam. “Our PHC is closer to the scene of action so we got 13 injured on Sunday,” one official said. “We referred two persons with pellet injuries in their eyes to SMHS and one with a bullet injury in his leg as well. All others, we managed locally and most of them had pellet injuries.”

Hospital sources in Kulgam said they received eight patients. These included Aamir Ahmad Dar, Basit Ahmad Lone (pellet), Aadil Ahmad, Ishfaq Ahmad, Suhail Ahmad, Ishrat Jan and Faizan Javed of Neloo village – all referred to Srinagar. Numan was also sent to the hospital in Kulgam where he was declared brought dead.

Travelling To Spot

A Kashmir Life staffer who moved from Srinagar to cover the happenings reached Bolsoo when the slain boy’s mother was attempting feeding him milk publicly. They witnessed his two funerals and then moved to the Soutch village, the home of Umar Ganai. “It was very difficult to pass the tens of thousands of people who had assembled in a vast paddy field between the orchards,” Bilal Bahadur said. “But it was hugely disciplined and we were escorted to the stage where we waited for almost 75 minutes when the body reached. We covered the hugely participated first funerals and returned to Srinagar.”

Youth standing near burning motorcycle during clashes in Batgund area of Shopian on November 25, 2018. KL Image by Shah Hilal

The entire belt was calm, tense but closed. There was not any kind of major vehicular movement but there were no tensions in the movement.

A late evening report alleged that a posse of army men from Reshnagri village had come to Amashpora village where a huge crowd was busy in the funeral prayer of one of the six slain militants. “By then, people had offered three funeral prayers,” one resident said. “The soldiers damaged the scooters and cars of the mourners and also opened fire in the air.” He said there was no report of any injury, however.

There was a report about students in the University of Kashmir coming out in a symbolic candlelight protest. JKLF also had a similar protest. JointResistance Leadership (JRL) has called for a strike on Monday to protest the “killing of 17 Kashmiris” in three days.

Police Version

Police used a detailed statement on the operation and about the half a dozen militants who were killed in the gun battle. It is being reproduced here:

“Based on a credible input about the presence of terrorists in Batagund area of Kapran in District Shopian, a cordon and search operation was launched in the intervening night jointly by Police and security forces in the area.

As the searches were going on, the search party was fired upon by the terrorists. The fire was retaliated leading to a gunfight. Initially, one jawan of 34 RR sustained injuries in the exchange of fire. He was evacuated to the hospital and is stated to be stable now. However, one jawan identified as Nazir Ahmad of 34 RR who got grievously injured in the final phase of the encounter has succumbed and attained martyrdom.

In the ensuing encounter, six terrorists were neutralized and the bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter.

People during a funeral procession of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Umar Majid Ganai at his native village in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on November 25, 2018. Kl Image by Bilal Bahadur

Moreover, few individuals sustained injuries at the encounter site and have been evacuated to hospital for medical attention.

It is further informed that the killed terrorists have been identified as Mushtaq Ahmad Mir @ Hammad @ Musha son of Ghulam Hassan Mir of Cheki-Cholan, Shopian, Mohammad Abass Bhatt son of Abdul Jabbar Bhat of Cheki Mantribugh, Shopian, Umar Majeed Ganaie @ Maaz @ Abu Hanzalla @ Abdul Rehman son of Abdul Majeed Ganaie of Souch Kulgam, Mohd Waseem Wagay @ Saifullah son of Abdul Hameed Wagay of Amshipora, Khalid Farooq Malik @Rafi @Talha of Baghander Aliyalpora  Shopian and from the material evidence collected,  one terrorist is learnt to be a foreigner from Pakistan.

It was a combined group of HM and LeT, as per police records, Mushtaq Ahmad Mir @Hammad was affiliated with LeT and was operating as District commander for Shopian, while Mohd Abaas, Waseem Wagay, Umar Majeed  Ganai and Khalid were with HM. Mohd Abass was known as District Commander of HM for Shopian and Umar Majed was operating as district commander of HM for Kulgam.

Charge Sheet

All the killed six terrorists were wanted by the law for their complicity in a series of terror crimes including attack on security establishments and civilian killings in the area. With their elimination, all notorious terrorists of the belt have been successfully eliminated.

As per the police records, Mushtaq Ahmad Mir @ Hammad had a long history of criminal terror crimes since 2014. He was a close associate of terrorist commander Zeenat-ul-Islam and was involved in several terror attacks on security establishments and civilian killings. He had figured in several terror cases and the prominent among them include FIR No: 27/15 PS Zainpora u/s 307 RPC, 7/27 I.A. act dated 19 May 2015, FIR No: 133/15 U/S 392,307,511 RPC, 7/27 I.A. Act PS Shopian pertaining to the snatching of weapons from Court Complex Shopian on 09.07.2015 in which a police constable got critically injured, FIR NO: 77/2016 U/S 302, 307 RPC, 7/27 A. Act  PS Heerpora pertaining to the  terrorists attack on Police guard at Ramnagri Shopian on 07.10.2016 in which one constable Nazir Ahmad got martyred besides injuries to one constable and  one civilian, FIR No: 119/2017 u/s 506 RPC 7/25 I A Act 38, 39 ULA (P) Act dated 01.06.2017 at PS Shopian for threatening and creating panic among the general masses of Shopian. He was also involved in lobbing of grenade at Bonbazar Chowk Shopian on 11.10.2016 in which 8 civilians had sustained injuries.

A file photo of Slain militants

Mohammad Abass Bhatt was earlier convicted for a murder case FIR No. 82/2011 U/S 302 RPC PS Shopian and sentenced for 5 years. After his release in April 2016, he joined the terrorist ranks. He was involved in several terror-related crimes and according to police records was involved in the recent spate of gruesome killings of civilians in Shopian including the decapitating of 19-year young Huzaif Ashraf. He was wanted by the law for the killing of young officer trainee Lt Omar Fayaz, Advocate Imtiyaz Khan and four police personnel at Shopian in August this year and many other civilian killings in the area. Several terror cases were registered against him and the prominent ones include FIR No 32/2017 of PS Shopian u/s 342, 451, 506 RPC 7/25 I.A Act dated 04.03.2017. He along with his other associates had barged inside the residential house of locals, ransacked the household goods and threatened the inmates, FIR No: 46/2017 of PS Shopian u/s 7/27 I.A Act, 307 RPC  3 PPPD Act, 16 ULA dated 23.03.2017 pertaining to the terror attack on the police party at Hajipora, FIR No: 93/2017 of PS Shopian u/s 307 RPC 7/25 A. Act dated 09.05.2017 pertaining to the firing and attack on security forces at village Kundalan Shopian, FIR No: 94/2017 of PS Shopian u/s 302  RPC 7/27  A. Act 16 ULA (P) Act dated 10.05.2017 pertaining to the abduction and killing of young trainee officer Lt Umar Fayaz S/o Fayaz Ahmad Parray R/o Sarsoona Kulgam at Herman Shopian, FIR No: 119 /2017 of PS Shopian u/s 506 RPC, 7/25 I.A. Act, 38, 39 ULA (P) Act dated 01.06.2017 pertaining to the threatening of civilians and locals of Shopian, FIR No: 91/17 of PS Shopian u/s 7/25 I.A. ACT 39 ULA (P) ACT, FIR NO: 194/17 OF PS Shopian u/s 307 RPC 7/27 I.A. ACT 16 ULA (P) Act, FIR NO: 205/17 of PS Shopian u/s 307, 324 RPC 7/27 I.A. ACT 16 ULA(P) Act, FIR No: 213/17 of PS Shopian u/s 7/27 I.A. ACT 302 RPC, FIR No: 264/17 of PS Shopian u/s 392 RPC 7/25 I.A. ACT

People carry the body of slain Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Umar Majid Ganai during his funeral procession in south Kashmir Kulgam on November 25, 2018. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Umer Majid Ganai who had escaped from Batmaloo encounter and whose photo was recently circulated on social media showing his presence near clock tower Lal chowk had figured in the killings of several policemen and civilians in the area since 2016. He was involved in Pombai Bank guard attack case in which four policemen and two banks guards had lost their lives in 2017. Several terror cases were registered against him and the prominent among them include FIR No.  96/2016 U/S 147, 148, 149, 188, 336, 332,302, 307,436, 511, 427 RPC 3 PSS Act 13 ULA (P) 3/2 PPD 7/27 A Act, FIR No. 259/2016 U/S 302, 109 RPC 7/25 Arms Act of P/S Kulgam, FIR No .119/2016 U/S 392, RPC 7/25 Arms Act of P/S Yaripora, FIR No. 58/2017 U/S 302, 392, 120-B RPC 10, 13, 18 ULA (P) Act, 7/25 Arms Act of P/S Kulgam, FIR No. 83/2017 U/S 452, 307 RPC 7/25 Arms Act of P/S Kulgam, FIR No. 187/2016 U/S 302, 307, RPC  7/25 IA Act of P/S Kulgam, FIR No. 121/2016 U/S 452,392 RPC, 30 Police Act 03 PEPO, 7/25 I A Act of P/S D.H. Pora, FIR No. 129/2016 U/S 395, 452, 30 Police Act. 7/25 I.A Act of P/S D.H. Pora, and FIR No. 106/2017 U/S 302, RPC, 7/25 Arms Act 13, ULA (P) Act OF P/S D.H. Pora.

Mohd Waseem Wagay @ Saifullah was involved in several terror crimes in the area and attacks on the security establishments. He was part of a terror group involved in the killing of four police personnel in August this year at Shopian. Many terror crime cases were registered against him including FIR No 93/2017 of PS Shopian u/s 307 RPC 7/25 A. Act dated 09.05.2017 pertaining to the attack on security forces at village Kundalan Shopian, FIR No: 264/2017 of PS Shopian u/s 392 RPC, 7/25 I.A Act and FIR No: 66/2017 of PS Heerpora u/s 7/25 I.A act 13, 38 ULA.

Similarly, Khalid Farooq was also involved in several terror crimes and was part of terror groups responsible for the killing of security forces and civilians in the area. One Pakistani terrorist killed in today’s encounter was wanted in the gruesome killing of civilians in the area including the throat slitting video uploaded on Social media.

Around the encounter site, one injured individual identified as Nouman Ashraf Bhat of Bolous Kulgam referred to the hospital has succumbed. Four others injured in the incident are reportedly stable.

Police have registered a case and initiated an investigation in the matter. A huge quantity of arms and ammunition including rifles were recovered from the site of encounter. All these materials have been taken in the case records for further investigation and probe their complicity in other terror cases.

Citizens are once again requested not to venture inside the encounter zone 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.”

(Sheikh Hilal from Shopian, Shah Hilal and Bilal Bahadur from Kulgam, Tahir Bhat and Shuib Wani from Srinagar contributed to this multi-media report)

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