Militants told us not to panic, Jhajjar Kotli family tells newspaper

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Srinagar

Nonagenarian Ishar Dass Khajuria and his family had a harrowing time on Wednesday night when three gun-wielding militants, who were hiding in the Jhajjar Kotli forest area, kept them hostage for one and a half hours and asked them to arrange a vehicle so that they could travel to Kashmir.

Ishar Dass (left) at his home in Jhajjar Kotli. Inderjeet Singh Pic: The Tribune

According to a report published by The Tribune said that the family is still in shock and is trying to recover from the mental trauma it faced during the militants’ stay at their home. The militants had taken away their mobile phones so that they could not communicate with anyone.

“Around 8 pm, militants, carrying bags, weapons, and explosives, entered our house. Four members of the family, including my daughter-in-law Geeta Devi and two grandchildren, were present in the house. Their language was a mix of Punjabi and Hindi. They asked us to arrange food for them as they had not eaten for the past three days,” The Tribune quoted Ishar Dass as saying.

According to the report he said: “We told them we will prepare something for them but they refused. We offered them biscuits and apples. They seized our mobile phones. My daughter-in-law panicked on seeing them and fell unconscious but one of them asked us not to panic.”

“They asked us to arrange a vehicle for them so that they could travel to Kashmir but we expressed our helplessness. They then asked us the location of the mosque, but being a Hindu-dominated area, we told them there was no mosque,” the report quoted Dass as saying.

Ishar Dass said: “They told us that they had come from Pakistan and it had taken them three days to reach here. Though they did not harm us, we are in a shock.”

Ishar Dass’s son Sudershan said the militants wanted to take his son Abhishek along but the family resisted and surprisingly, the militants didn’t object to it. He said they then disappeared into the forest.

“As the militants left, we locked our house and spent the night with our neighbour’s because we were scared. Many families in the locality locked their houses and shifted to their relatives’ places due to fear,” The Tribune quoted Ishar Dass’s son Sudershan as saying.

According to reports, the militants had opened fire on a police party, which had been following their truck from Saketar near Jammu after it grew suspicious about it. While fleeing, the militants shot at a guard of the Sericulture Department.

Police later arrested the truck driver, Riyaz Ahmed of Pulwama, and Mohammad Iqbal of Budgam, a paramedical student. Iqbal was asked by militant commanders in the Valley to bring the militants from Jammu and Riyaz was hired for the purpose, police said.

Government forces had pressed drones, helicopters and sniffer dogs to trace the militants. While the searches were in progress, militants sought refuge at the house of a villager, nearly 400 m away from Jhajjar Kotli police station, on Wednesday night.

“During the night, they crossed Jhajjar nullah and came over to Kakriyal where they were trapped due to the security cordon. As searches resumed on Thursday, the militants opened fire on search parties at noon, leading to the gunbattle in which they were killed,” an official said.

According to reports, the militants had opened fire on a police party, which had been following their truck from Saketar near Jammu after it grew suspicious about it. While fleeing, the militants shot at a guard of the Sericulture Department.

Police later arrested the truck driver, Riyaz Ahmed of Pulwama, and Mohammad Iqbal of Budgam, a paramedical student. Iqbal was asked by militant commanders in the Valley to bring the militants from Jammu and Riyaz was hired for the purpose, police said.

Government forces had pressed drones, helicopters and sniffer dogs to trace the militants. While the searches were in progress, militants sought refuge at the house of a village, nearly 400 m away from Jhajjar Kotli police station, on Wednesday night.

“During the night, they crossed Jhajjar nullah and came over to Kakriyal where they were trapped due to the security cordon. As searches resumed on Thursday, the militants opened fire on search parties at noon, leading to the gunbattle in which they were killed,” an official said.

 

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