Khudwani encounter: The Complete Story

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by Saima Bhat

SRINAGAR: Four civilians and one army personnel were killed in the Khudwani encounter that broke out late night on Tuesday. The operation was called off on Wednesday evening when the situation turned ‘volatile’ in the area after holed up militants along with alleged OGW managed to flee.

Mother of a Slain Civilian SharJeel Ahmad wailing near his crops.
Kl Image by Shah Hilal

As per the police officials, the encounter started on Tuesday at 11 pm when a joint team of army’s 1 RR, SOG and CRPF laid a siege at Wani Mohalla area of Khudwani. They had the inputs about the presence of some militants.

After the initial exchange of fire, the operation was halted till dawn while all arrangements were put in place to prevent militants from escaping.

As the exchange of fire started on Wednesday morning, a large number of people from adjoining areas hit to roads and clashed with government forces. After the operation was over as guns fell silent for two hours, the counter-insurgent grid called off the operation and launched a search operation to retrieve the militant bodies from the debris of the encounter site. Clashes re-erupted. Soon, a short video appeared on the twitter showing two militants on a bike stunting as people celebrating!

“We had to pull them out because the situation had turned bad. We feared more casualties so police had to make it sure the joint parties leave the encounter site,” a senior police official said. “We told them to let people retrieve the bodies themselves but you leave. It was a wise decision.”

However, a low rung police official said there were operational issues as well. “The hideout was located in the dept and the entire personnel were at a higher altitude,” the official said. “Accessing the hideout could have been problematic especially because vehicles would hardly reach there.”

At least one house was razed to the ground using explosives and two adjacent houses were also damaged when they caught fire. As per a local news gathering agency, CNS, five houses and three shops were completely damaged that belonged to Ghulam Muhammad Wani, Bashir Ahmed Lone, Bilal Ahmed Dar, Muhammad Yousuf Wani and Muhammad Latif Wani. The three shops belonging to Bashir Ahmed Lone were also damaged during the encounter.

Witnesses told CNS that helicopter gunships were used to fire at the house where militants were holed up. “Huge blasts were heard after helicopter gunships fired at the house,” they said.

Kashmir: April 11, 2018

On the day 3 of this week, an encounter threw life out of gear again. Four civilians were killed in an encounter in Khudwani and both the militants managed an escape. A soldier was also killed. Watch the short film on the day's happenings.

Posted by Kashmir Life on Wednesday, April 11, 2018

But as the last reports came in, the protests were going on the Kudwani area and other adjacent areas of Kulgam against the civilian deaths.

First Casualty

The first civilian casualty was reported before noon and the slain was identified as Sharjeel Ahmad Sheikh, 28, son of Abdul Hameed of Khudwani.

As per eyewitness, Sheikh was injured during the clashes. He was shifted to sub-district hospital Qaimoh where from he was referred to District Hospital Islamabad. A doctor at the facility said that Sheikh succumbed in the hospital. “He had a bullet injury in his abdomen,” said the doctor.

A bride schedule to exchange marriage vows on May 15, loses her would be groom on April 11.In this photograph she is been consoled by her relatives.
KL Image by Shah Hilal

As per Sheikh’s maternal uncle, they were going to solemnise his marriage on May 15. In one of the pictures, that has gone viral on social networking sites, his would-be-bride was seen crying near his body.

After Sheikh, two teenagers were also killed. One was identified as Bilal Ahmad Tantray, 16, who was brought dead to the PHC Qaimoh. He was a resident of Hawoora, Mishpora. He had bullet injuries on the right side of his chest, the doctor said.

The Second Killing

Another teenager was identified as Faisal Ahmad Illahi, a class 9th student. He was shot dead allegedly by police on Wanpora bridge, Kulgam.  Fasail, 14, son of Ghulam Ahmad Illahi, was buried in his ancestral graveyard in Melhoora, where five rounds of funeral prayers were held.

Reportedly the teenager Faisal was a student at government higher secondary school Arwani and his cousin was quoted saying that when they reached near the bridge in Wanpora village where counterinsurgent forces fired at civilians who were clashing with them. “We ran away after forces opened fire but Fazil left behind and was hit with bullets.”

Wanpoh is almost 2 kms away from Khudwani and is located on the highway. It is the spot where the routes from Shopian – coming from Kadder and Kulgam, join the highway.

Faisal was shifted to Primary Health Centre Qaimoh in a critical condition and doctors declared him brought dead. He had bullet injuries on neck and chest. He is survived by an elder brother, who is a dropout from school and three sisters, two of whom are unmarried.

Another Casualty

The fourth civilian was identified as Aijaz Ahmad Palla, 30, son of Mohammad Siraj of Batpora, Nagbal at present Tulkhan village in Bijbehara.

Palla was taken to nearby hospital where doctors declared him brought dead on arrival.

As per the police statement, the dead army personnel was identified as Sepoy S. Gunakar Roy (No 16121860/K) who was injured in the gunfight succumbed to his injuries, said police.

The spokesman also said that two more Army personnel were injured and shifted to hospital for treatment. “12 persons have also received injuries in the process and are being treated at different hospitals. They are stated to be stable,” the statement added.

But as per the details collected from different hospitals in Kulgam district, at least sixty injured were shifted to PHC Qaimouh while 18 were admitted in Kulgam and Islamabad hospitals out of which eight were referred to Srinagar hospitals.

The referred ones included one civilian, Lone Adil, 25, who was critically injured and was referred to SKIMS, where doctors said he has been operated upon. “He has a firearm injury and had a fracture in a Temporoparietal bone. We received him in critical condition,” said the doctor, who operated upon him.

Another critical patient referred to SKIMS was Lone Shahid, 24. He also had firearm injury in the face, head and left shoulder. “He has displaced fracture of left Sphenoid.”

A doctor at Qoimoh PHC confirmed to Kashmir Life that they referred all pellet hit patients to SMHS hospital for advanced treatment but the medical superintendent SMHS, Dr Saleem Tak, did not receive his calls despite repeated attempts and the CMO of the hospital refused to give any information saying, “I am not the authorised person to give the information.”

Reactions

Opposition leader Omar Abdullah called it a ‘costly encounter’ that included, mostly the loss of civilians. “One soldier dead, four civilians killed in what the police claim was crossfire, numerous injuries and at the end of all that the operation is called off,” Omar said in the tweet. “This has been a costly encounter.”

JRL has called for the strike on Thursday and protests on Friday. The government has already called off the schools.

Chief Minister Ms Mehbooba Mufti has regretted the civilian loss. She flew directly to Srinagar from Delhi. An official in her secretariat said she was supposed to come to Jammu but because of the situation in Kashmir, she flew directly to Srinagar.

Meanwhile, as the news of civilian killings spread, protests were reported from across Kashmir including KU, IUST, NIT, Sopore, Handwara, Bandipora, Sumbal, Pulwama, Shopian and Baramulla.

SHO Baramulla

A few students were also injured in the clashes but they were discharged after getting treated. While as an SHO Baramullah, Khalid Fayaz, 35, a resident of Chattabal, was also injured in the clashes. He was hit by a stone leading to his right frontal bone fracture.

All political parties, mainstream as well as unionist, have extended their heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. Meanwhile militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba has also paid their tribute to the slain of Kulgam.

Militants ‘Escape’

Reportedly all the three militants managed to escape from the gunfight spot. Sources have identified to CNS the militants included Muhammad Azad Pala alias Zaid, Bilal Ahmed alias Asim and Suhail Ahmed Dar of Redwani, all affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba. But police sources confirmed Kashmir Life that only two militants were in the encounter and another Suhail Ahmad Dar is an OGW.

A brief video clip surfaced on twitter shows two militants, possibly the same who escaped from the hideout, moving on a bike.

Pertinently the union home minister Rajnath Singh is likely to visit Kashmir next week to ascertain the situation himself.

Wreath Laying

The army flew is injured soldier to the 92-Base Hospital in Badamibagh headquarters where wreath laying event took place.

Army tribute to Spr Sada Gunakara Rao, who killed during a gunfight in Kulgam District.

Defence Ministry spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said the Army paid a befitting tribute to the martyred soldier, Sepoy Sada Gunakara Rao. In a solemn ceremony at Badami Bagh Cantonment, he said Lt Gen A K Bhatt, Chinar Corps Commander and all ranks, paid homage to the martyr on behalf of a proud nation.

“In a show of solidarity, representatives from other security agencies also joined in paying their last respects to the martyr,” he said.

Rao was evacuated to the 92-base hospital after first aid but he succumbed there.

“Sepoy Rao was 24 years of age and had joined the Army in 2012. He belonged to Village Atisurikaviti of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh and is survived by his parents,” he said. His mortal remains were flown for last rites to his native place, where he would be laid to rest with full military honours.”

  • With inputs from Farzana Nissar in Kulgam.

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