SRINAGAR: It seemed as if the Tuesday was for mourning’s only. Coffins were everywhere: two in Tral, and three in Kupwara, as the cops silently drove the two slain militants for the burial, somewhere in north Kashmir, possibly in a graveyard that would not have many mourners. The mourning’s coincided with the slight change in the weather conditions that led to a halt in snowing permitting people to bury the dead.
Tragically, Monday ended with a coffin being lowered in a Budgam village. Yousuf Nadeem, a PDD employee and a separatist activist, was killed by some unidentified militants when he was on his way to home. Police said they have registered case and investigations have started. No arrest has been made so far. Mohammad Yousuf Rather was laid to rest late last night.
On Tuesday, most of Srinagar witnessed fierce gun-battle for most of the last night. It was around Karan Nagar where the CRPF and Police had besieged a building where two militants, believed to be Pakistani residents, took refuge as their bid to enter a CRPF camp failed Monday morning. They were finally killed early, morning on Tuesday and the operation was declared over by Kashmir’s new police chief S P Pani.
Karan Nagar Encounter
Rajesh Yadav, who commands the CRPF 161 Bn and is the spokesman of the paramilitary force in Kashmir, was also part of the operation. He gave the credit to Raghu Nath, the alert sentry of the 23 Bn headquarters, who detected the movement of the two militants during wee hours on Monday. “Had he not detected them quickly, it could, well have been a Fidayeen attack,” Yadav said. “His detection led to the chase and the location of the building in which the militant duo had barged in.”
The location was quite sensitive. The spot is home to the DIG CRPF Shalinder Kumar’s office and two CRPF battalions – 23 and 49, are headquartered there. Kumar’s office is barely 70 yards away from the spot of the clash. The area is an interesting location. There are various homes which are abandoned and nobody is living there. Besides, there are some new buildings that have come up and still nobody living there. It was in one of these buildings where the two militants had taken refuge in.
“We were already on high alert after the SMHS episode,” Yadav said. “When the suspicious movement was detected, all the battalions were out within minutes and we immediately secured the area.”
It was around 7 am, Yadav said when the cordon was being tightened and the CRPF men came under a huge barrage of fire. “While this helped us locate the 4-story building in which the two militants were hiding, one of our boys was hit,” Yadav said. “He was hit in his neck; we evacuated him to the hospital and he succumbed to his injuries.” Identified as Mujahid Khan, a 49 Bn official, he was a resident of Bojpur district in Bihar. It was later that day, a cop from Jammu and Kashmir Police was also hit by a bullet but it was a minor injury.
Yadav said the operation was launched by police and CRPF jointly. “This operation is an example of the synergy we have evolved between two forces,” Yadav said.
After the initial loss, the gun battle started during last night when most of the belt reverberated with the thuds of the blasts. The police and the CRPF had put on floodlights around the building and during the dead of the night, they called a Sherpa vehicle from north Kashmir because the bulletproof car gives the CRPF an advantage of getting very close to the threat. Sherpa is the new armoured car that the CRPF is using in its counter-insurgency operations.
“It was during room to room search when our soldiers killed the two militants,” Yadav said. “It took us many hours to scan the entire premises and clear it after a proper mop-up.” He said the CRPF Kashmir IGP Randip Singh Sahi and Kumar were part of the operation and spent most of the night there on the spot.
“On February 12, 2018 early in the morning at 4:30 am, one alert CRPF sentry of 23 Bn. HQ Karan Nagar spotted two militants carrying pithu bags and armed with AK-47 rifles.
The alert sentry opened fire due to which they fled towards the nearby locality. At 1000 hours during the conduct of search operation in the area near Gole Market Karan Nagar J/D of P/S Karan Nagar the search party was fired upon by these terrorists who were hiding in an under construction multi-storied building ensuing an encounter.
The encounter concluded today afternoon. In the encounter, two terrorists were killed whose identity is being ascertained. Both these terrorists belonged to LeT outfit as per the incriminating material recovered from them.
During the encounter, one CRPF personnel identified as Ct. Mohammad Mujahid Khan No. 11047672 S/o Abdul Khair Khan R/o District Arah State Bihar of 49 Bn CRPF attained martyrdom and one J&K police personnel namely Javid Ahmad No 1843/S of District Police Srinagar suffered bullet injuries but his condition is stable.
Two AK-47 rifles, 08 AK-47 magazines and other warlike stores were recovered from the encounter site. While planning the operation due care was taken to avoid any collateral damage. Police have registered a case and investigation is on.”
There were some protests around the spot of the encounter but not as serious as south Kashmir has been witnessing during the encounter. However, what was the talk of the day was how strongly the house has been built. On social websites, there were a couple of clips showing the strength of the house in which militants had positioned themselves.
“There were more than 50 shells fired at this house and it did not have any impact,” one police officer said. “Does this house belong to an engineer?”
Information available with Kashmir Life suggests that the house does belong to an engineer who has acquired it recently. The house was being redone and was almost ready. “Even woodwork was done, it was ready for home warming,” a CRPF officer said.
A local police officer said the house was visibly haunted even before militancy when it was owned by some other person. “It hardly remained unoccupied even after it changed the ownership,” he said.
A well-informed citizen said the house belonged to the Chief Engineer of Maharaja era. “His name was Sharma. After his daughter died, he almost left it abandoned,” the citizen said. “Between early seventies till 2010, it was rotting and then a retired executive engineer bought it.”
Mourning’s Across Kashmir
A senior police officer said the two slain militants are Pakistanis’ and have been shifted to police control room wherefrom they will be driven to a graveyard in north Kashmir, later tonight.
Police said some elements had attempted creating tensions by spreading rumours that the slain militants were locals. “In one case, a mob of around 300 people assembled in the house of a militant in a south Kashmir village and it took almost half an hour to send them home,” one officer said.
But there were many gatherings across Kashmir where real mournings were going on for the whole day. As many as five coffins were flown by an IAF aircraft to the Srinagar technical airport after the wreath laying in Jammu. They all were killed in Sunjwan military station in Jammu that was stormed by three Jaish militants. These included five soldiers from Kashmir, of whom three belonged to Kupwara and one each to Tral and Qazigund. One of the bodies was actually recovered Tuesday morning. In fact, one of them was killed along with his father.
The body of another soldier was today recovered from the encounter site inside the Sunjuwan Military camp here, taking the death toll in the attack to 10, including six Army personnel and three militants of the JeM.
The body of the fifth soldier was recovered during the clearance operation at the camp last night, Jammu-based Army Public Relation Officer Lt Col Devender Anand said. Five army men, all state subjects, and the father of one of the slain soldiers were killed and 10 others, including two officers and six women and children, were injured in the Fidayeen attack. Slain soldiers included Madan Lala (Kathua), Iqbal and his father (Tral), Ashraf Mir (Maidanpora), Habibullah Qureshi (Haihama), and Manzoor Ahmad Dewa (Qazigund). The identity of the other soldier whose body was recovered today morning is still unidentified.
Police said the army paid last respects to the slain soldiers at their respective places of residence. But in Tral, the body of the slain soldier was first driven to a garrison in Awantipore for the final salute.
Reports said more than 2000 people had assembled in Rishipora village of Tral where the locality offered funeral prayers to Iqbal, the soldier and his father, separately. Locals said better attendance is because both father and son were good human beings and that was the main reason why people from other villages had come. “We were caught in the crisis as we had father and him (Iqbal) in the same flat,” Iqbal distraught widow said. She is herself injured. “While every other person fled, they could not because of me and the kid.” Her son is barely 18 months old. Iqbal is survived by a young wife, mother, and three sisters, two of whom are unwed.
Police said the attendance at the other three funerals – two in Kupwara (Maidanpora and Haihama) and one in Kewer Qazigund, was normal. Soldiers from the nearest battalions were there to pay the gun salute. Locals were busy in the funerals of all the cases.
Reports from Kupwara said that locals who joined the funeral prayers of junior commissioned officer (JCO) Mohammad Ashraf Mir demanded an end to the bloodshed and urged for talks between India and Pakistan to stop these killings and tragedies. “These killings lead to tragedies and destruction only. We appeal India and Pakistan to put to an end the hostility and stop these inhuman acts,” the villagers were quoted saying.
DSP Lolab Sarfaraz Ahmad, senior army officers, officials from the district administration were present on the occasion. Ashraf was the only bread earner for the family. “He was our only hope. He laid down his life for the country. Ashraf talked to me a few days back after he went back to his unit at the camp. He was outside earlier,” his father said.