by Saima Bhat
SRINAGAR: Three militants, including a Lashkar-e-Toiba ‘commander’, two civilians and a soldier were killed in two separate gunfights and a search operation in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday. The Thursday situation triggered by these incidents led to injuries to at least 18 people, with 16 of them admitted in SMHS, one in SKIMS Soura and one in SKIMS Bemina. The injured included a 25 years old Fehmeeda, a resident of Noorbagh, who has received pellets in her chest.
A civilian, Saleem Malik, 24, son of Mohammad Yakub Malik, was killed after a joint team of Special Operations Group (SOG) and paramilitary CRPF launched a cordon-and-search-operation (CASO) in Magrey Mohalla of Baghwanpora Noorbagh around 3 am.
Police sources said they had an input about the presence of two militants in the area when the operation was launched.
As soon as the mixed contingent of police and paramilitary left the place of Malik’s killing, one of the slain man’s neighbours told reporters that he was used as a ‘human shield’ by forces.
“I was taken from my house and asked who lives in the house of Malik’s,” the neighbour told Kashmir Life. “As I told them how many members they are, they already had the names of the inhabitants. I don’t know who but somebody shouted a thief, a thief and then bullets were showered. One of the Army personnel then put his gun on my shoulder and asked me to move ahead. I couldn’t understand what should I do but I moved forward and suddenly my foot struck with the body of Saleem. He was lying on the ground and I thought he must have been beaten by the forces but he was dead. The forces confirmed if I knew him. I told them he is the son of that family and on hearing this they got panicked and started calling their seniors. They left the place and told me to leave the place.”
Before leaving the place the forces allegedly fired more bullets on the house near to Malik’s house.
Saleem Malik, was the youngest among his three siblings. His father runs a small provisional shop outside his house, where Saleem used to help him in the evenings. His eldest brother is a salesman and two sisters are an alumnus of Jamiat ul Banat, Lal Bazar. His mother is a housewife.
One of his relatives said Saleem was very fond of sheep. A class 5th dropout, he used to earn by stitching school bags and sometimes reared sheep. During evenings he used to help his father at his shop. It is believed that pre-dawn “Saleem heard the sound of somebody cutting the tin of shed where he used to keep his sheep,” the relative said. “He thought maybe it was a thief who wanted to steal his sheep and while shouting thief, thief he came out of his house. As soon as he came out he was shot at. All the bullets fired initially, are on his body.”
He added, “There was no encounter in the area. It is a cold-blooded murder. It was just a CASO in which Saleem, a commoner was killed and later houses were damaged without any reason.”
As soon as the mourners were taking Saleem’s body towards graveyard in Eid Gah, they were allegedly attacked with teargas smoke and pepper gas shells. It was only after the intervention by the elders in the area that police let go the funeral procession.
“It was a heart wrenching scene when Saleem’s relatives were crying and pleading before the government forces to allow their son’s funeral procession go smoothly. Nobody could control their tears,” informed a local.
In a separate incident, a top commander of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Asif Malik alias Abu Ukasha of Khahgund Verinag and army personnel were killed in a shootout following an army ambush in Dalwach Dooru in Anantnag district at around 3.38 am. Two more soldiers were injured in the shootout.
The slain soldier was identified as Happy Singh and the injured as Bupinder Singh and Kulwant Singh of 19 RR.
Multiple rounds of funeral prayers were held for the slain militant killed in Dalwach Dooru area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
Reports said that thousands of the mourners from Dalwach, Khahgund, and its adjoining areas participated in the funeral procession of the slain militant. And reportedly some militants also appeared in his funeral to offer a gun salute.
Born in 1990, Malik son of Mohammad Naseem Malik, an engineer by profession, had joined militant ranks in September 2017. Before joining militancy he was working with a private firm in the Anantnag (Islamabad) and reportedly there was no FIR registered against him before joining militancy.
Son of a retired forest official, Asif is survived by his parents, two brothers including one specially abled and a sister.
His family informed reporters that Malik along with his two associates joined them for dinner on Wednesday evening as their another son was getting engaged today, on Thursday.
“After having dinner they left and in the morning we heard he has been killed.”
Reportedly after leaving his home, Malik along with his two associates had gone to Dalwach, Gakisgund in Dooru. They took refuge in the house of Habibullah Mir but as soon as the area was cordoned all the three militants left the house. “After coming out there was an exchange of bullets, 10 to 20 bullets, in which Asif and three army personnel got injured. Asid couldn’t survive but two of his other associates managed to escape.” One of the army person later succumbed to his injures and other two are presently going under treatment in the army hospital.
Asif Malik was a militant of A+ category and he was elevated to the rank of district commander of his militant outfit.
As soon as the encounter was over, the family of Habibullah Mir reported to media that three of their sons: Ghulam Rasool Mir, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, and Manzoor Ahmad Mir, were detained by the 19RR army group.
The encounter led to a complete shutdown was observed in Dooru and Verinag areas of the district. Reportedly clashes had erupted in Larkipora and Dialgam areas of the district.
In another encounter, two militants were killed in a gunfight in Panzan village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
Reports said the gun battle was started in the early morning. Earlier, the militants fled from the house where they had been hiding and then they shifted to a religious place. After that the police officers got village elders involved and asked them to persuade the militants to come out of the religious place.
The two militants killed were identified as Sheraz Ahmed, a resident of Kralwari and Irfan Ahmed Dar of Nihama Pulwama. Both of them were associated with Hizbul Mujahideen.
Irfan Ahmad was working as an SPO and had deserted his department in June 2018 along with an AK47 rifle.
The encounter began today early morning after a joint team of army, police and CRPF launched a cordon and Search Operation in the area.
In yet another incident, a non-local labourer was killed by the army during an ambush in Rangward area of Kralpora in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district around 2 am.
The identity of the slain youth could not be established. A Srinagar-based defence spokesman said they were ascertaining the facts about the incident.
After the killings, restrictions were imposed in old Srinagar city parts to prevent any agitation against the civilian killing. Internet services were also snapped in three districts of Kashmir following the gunfights between the forces and militants.
By the end of the day, more than ten youths were admitted in the ophthalmology ward of SMHS hospital, who had got pellets in their eyes. But the MS of the hospital did not receive the calls from Kashmir Life newsroom.
The Joint Resistance Leadership have called for a shutdown on Friday against the civilian killing.
Taking to a social networking site Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq wrote: “JRL asks People to register their strong protest by observing a complete hartal tomorrow Friday 28th September against the continued gruesome and barbaric killing of Kashmiri’s at the hands of Indian forces, arrest spree of resistance activists and supporters. State terror has been unleashed under CASO to wipe out and harass Kashmiri’s unabashedly!”
Late in the afternoon, the state police released a statement to the press about the four incidents of the day.
“Police and Security Forces in the wee hours today launched a search operation at Gazi Gund Dooru in District Anantnag. During the searches, the encounter started off between security forces and terrorists. In the ensuing encounter, a local terrorist identified as Asif Malik who was operating as commander of a proscribed terror outfit LeT was eliminated. He was involved in several attacks on security forces including the killing of CRPF men at Achabal this year and in many other cases of civilian atrocities. One security force Jawan identified as Happy Singh of 19 RR also attained martyrdom in the encounter.
Incriminating material including arms and ammunition was recovered from the site of encounter.
In another encounter at Budgam which started today morning at Panzan area of Chadoora in district Budgam, Security Forces neutralised two terrorists identified as Sheeraz Ahmad Bhat resident of Kralwari Chadoora and Irfan Ahmad Dar resident of Kakapora Pulwama affiliated with proscribed terror outfit HM. Irfan Ahmad Dar was working as SPO and had deserted a couple of months ago.
Pertinently, the terrorists fired on a search party from a nearby mosque and subsequently area was taken into the cordon. The local Auqaf Committee was engaged to convince the terrorists to come out. Security forces also appealed the terrorists to come out. However, the terrorists turned down the offer and consequently the operation had to be carried out in a deliberate manner keeping intact the sanctity of the mosque. In this operation, one security forces’ jawan also sustained bullet injuries and was evacuated to a hospital for medical treatment.
In another incident at Noor Bagh in Srinagar city, Security Forces acting on a credible input cordoned a cluster of houses where the hiding terrorists fired indiscriminately resulting in the death of an individual identified as Saleem Malik son of Mohammad Yaqoob Malik.
Police have initiated the investigation in all the cases.”
A joint Operation was launched on the input of a few terrorists hiding in village Panzan, Chadoora, District Budgam in the intervening night of 26&27 September. On being surrounded the terrorists ran and took shelter inside a place of worship. Keeping in mind the sanctity of the place and religious sentiments of the Awam, troops cordoned the area and all opportunities were given to the terrorists to not vilify the place of worship and surrender. However, the terrorists chose to engage the troops and brought down a heavy volume of fire from inside. Maximum restraint was displayed by troops and initially, they did not retaliate. Later on, the troops resorted to controlled fire. During the ensuing gunfight, despite the grave danger, the troops risked their life and limbs to ensure that no damage was caused to the structure and the two terrorists were eliminated after a protracted operation.
After the killings, many mainstream political leaders released their statements against the civilian killings.
PDP lawmaker Altaf Bukhari strongly condemned the civilian killing in Noorbagh area and called it a “cold-blooded murder”.
National Conference also came up with a statement. While expressing their grief and solidarity with the Malik family, the local lawmaker of the party, Mubarak Gul has demanded a time-bound investigation into the killing of Saleem so that culprit is identified and booked.
Condemnations also poured in from CPI leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami and Congress party.