Gutangoo, Laam Encounter: The Complete Story

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SRINAGAR: Four Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants, one policeman and an Army man were killed in an encounter that raged between a mixed contingent of counter-insurgent forces and militants for at least 10 hours in the dense forests of Gutangoo hamlet of Jawaharpora Laam, in Tral. Out of the six slain, three belong to Tral region.

Army men carrying ammunition rushed towards encounter site.

The encounter that was jointly carried out by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the state police, 48 RR and CRPF, started at around 6.30 am on Tuesday and concluded at around 5 with the killing of four militants. The police sources said they had an input about the presence of the militants in the area.

The Laam encounter is a rare operation in which there were no civilian losses. A police officer said the encounter took place in the forests and nobody lives around. “It was an encounter in the open and no civilian property was involved,” he said. “The population lives far away, so there were no routine protests either.”

Locals said the gunfight erupted in the morning but they had seen forces going towards the Gutengoo area in the middle of the night. “The army blocked the area from three sides and when they established a contact then reinforcements were called in,” they said.

The encounter broke a fortnight-long lull across the state. Last gun battle was reported from Pulwama village of Kangan on April 7, in which a local militant Musawir Ahmad was killed.

Initially, one militant, a SOG man and Army personnel were hit by bullets. They were declared dead within two hours. Residents alleged that the troops flew para-commandos and used aerial support to conclude the operation in the afternoon. They said a major blast that shook the locality actually concluded the encounter. There were no official confirmations to these reports, however.

All the four militants were identified as Omar Khalid, Ishfaq Ahmad Khan, Yasir a foreigner who was the ‘area commander’ of Tral and Abid Maqbool and all of them belonged to Jaish-e-Muhammad militant group.

The local sources informed Kashmir Life that Ishfaq Ahmad Khan belonged to Andoora Tral, who was first arrested in March 2014 after he tried to snatch a service rifle of a SOG man on duty in Pampore. That time police issued a statement suggesting Khan was an OGW with Hizbul Mujahideen militant group. He was jailed for one year and later released. But after his release, he joined JeM.

Slain militant Abid Maqbool

Abid Maqbool, another local militant, is the son of a policeman and belongs to Khangund in Tral. He was a student of the second year when he joined JeM in the month of February 2018.

The slain cop of SOG was identified as Latif Gojri, who is also a resident of Tral area. His wreath laying was held at district police lines Awantipora where IGP Kashmir Swayam Prakash Pani, DIG south Kashmir range Amit Kumar and others leaders of various security agencies were present.

Police officers carrying a coffin of his colleague Latif Gojri during wreath laying ceremony at Awantipora.

“We pay out a tribute to policeman Latif Gojri whom we lost today at Tral. We stand by with the family of our martyr who made supreme sacrifice in the line of duty,” the Kashmir range police tweeted. In another tweet, the police also paid tributes to the slain Army personnel Ajay Kumar.

Reports said two more Army personnel were seriously injured in the operation who are presently being treated at Army’s base hospital in Badami Bagh.

The police issued a detailed statement about the incident.

“After receiving credible inputs about the presence of militants in the area, searches were initiated and during searches, the militants fired heavily upon the search party. Security Forces in their guarded response fired back leading to an encounter with the militants. During the encounter, three militants of JeM were killed. Their identity is being ascertained,” the police statement said.

“Moreover, one police personnel identified as Mohammad Latif, son of Ghulam Hassan resident of Tral and one Army Jawan identified as Ajay Kumar attained was killed in the encounter.

During the encounter, incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the spot.”

Authorities had suspended the phone connectivity and the internet services in the area. As the last reports came in, SSP Awantipore was not available for his comments. His operator said, “He is busy with law and order situation.”

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti paid tributes to the slain jawans in a late evening statement. “The chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti has also paid her tributes to the two jawans of Army and Police who were killed during an operation,” the statement reads. “She extended her heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the slain jawans. She has also conveyed her sympathies to the personnel who were injured in the incident.”

 

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