Ramzan’s Bloodiest Thursday: A Complete story

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by Saima Bhat

SRINAGAR: At least thirteen persons were lowered in their graves by Thursday evening after two encounters in Pulwama and Shopian districts of south Kashmir and a brief shootout in north Kashmir concluded. The slain include a civilian, three militants and a soldier in Pulwama encounter; a civilian and two militants in Shopian encounter besides a soldier; one ‘unknown’ person in Kupwara forests; a civilian in Baderwah (Chenab Valley), and two locals who lost their battle for survival and succumbed to their injuries in SKIMS.

Mourners shout slogans during the funeral procession of militant Naseer Pandith at Karimabad village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, on Thursday, May 16 2019. KL Image by Bilal
Bahadur

With such a huge toll in a day in Jammu and Kashmir, the Thursday emerged as the deadliest day of this Ramzan, the month of fasting.

Pulwama Encounter

As the faithful were busy to conclude their Sehri, the pre-dawn meals, and begin their fast, the news about an encounter breaking out in Dalipora (Pulwama) flashed in screens.

Police said that a joint team of army and SOG launched cordon and search operation in Dalipora area near police station Pulwama following specific information about the presence of some militants in the area. As the mixed column of the counter-insurgent forces approached the suspected spot, the militants opened fire triggering an encounter.

It was just a knock at the door of Jalaluddin Dar, a shop owner and a small-time fruit businessman that changed their family forever. “It was around 2.45 am when forces personnel jumped from the wall in our compound and knocked at the door. They later took along the head of our families along with his two sons,” a close relative of the Dar family said.

“After moving some 100 to 150 yards towards a house of Ghulam Hassan Dar’s son, the eldest son Younis was told to go inside the house and the youngest son of the family Raees was with the army and the SOG,” the family member said. “As Younis knocked at one of the doors, the militants opened fire and one of the bullets injured him on his leg.”

Raees, 26, was presently pursuing his post-doctorate online in Islamic Banking, which was scheduled to get complete by 2020.  “He completed his MBA from Islamia college in Srinagar in 2016 and since then he was pursuing this PhD. He had already received a call letter from a  bank in Gulf and was scheduled to join after the completion of his PhD,” said one of his relative.

Soon after Younis was shifted to district hospital Pulwama where he is said to be stable. It was much later told that Raees was killed in the encounter. Younis who was admitted to the hospital was shocked and did nt know how.

Meanwhile, the local district hospital also received Altaf Ahmad Dar, a civilian in an injured condition. His attendants told the hospital that the forces allegedly thrashed him during the encounter.

It was later in the afternoon that the police confirmed that in the initial exchange of fire a civilian and two army men were injured. The civilian identified as Younis had received a bullet in his thigh and was evacuated to district hospital Pulwama. The two army officials, also injured in the encounter, were shifted to army’s 92 base hospital in Badamibagh Srinagar where one of them namely Sandeep Kumar succumbed to his injuries.

In quick follow up, police sent a statement saying that one civilian also died in the encounter.

As the encounter ended, three bodies of the militants were recovered who was later identified as recruits of Jaish e Muhammad.

The trio was identified as Naseer Ahmad Pandith, 20, of Kareemabad Pulwama, Umar Mir, 21, of Shopian and from the incriminating material recovered from the site of encounter, one militant has been identified as a Pakistani namely Khalid, who was operating as commander of JeM.

Naseer Pandith, according to open sources, joined militancy in November 2018. Before joining militant ranks, his family sources confirmed he was booked under PSA five times. His last PSA was slapped on him in 2015, under which he stayed in jail for two years. “Though he was released in 2017 but the police would always be on a lookout for him,” a family source said. “They arrested his home many times and searched the premises.”

Pandith is survived by his father, a small-time farmer, mother and one brother who is into carpet weaving.

As the news spread about the killing of local militants, the authorities imposed curfew restrictions and Internet too was also suspended in the Pulwama-Shopian belt.

Police Statement

 “On a credible input, a cordon and search operation was launched today morning by police and security forces at Dalipora area in District Pulwama.

As the Police and security forces were evacuating civilians from the neighbourhood area around the target house, the hiding terrorists fired indiscriminately. In the process, one Army jawan Sepoy Sandeep attained martyrdom and one civilian Rayees Dar also lost his life.

After the security forces retaliated, three terrorists were killed in the ensuing encounter and their bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter. They were identified as Naseer Pandith of Kareemabad Pulwama, Umar Mir of Shopian and from the incriminating material recovered from the site of encounter, one terrorist has been identified as a Pakistani namely Khalid.

According to the police records, the killed terrorists have affiliated with proscribed terror outfit JeM. They were wanted by law for their complicity in a series of terror crimes including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities. Several terror crime cases were registered against them.

As per police records, Naseer Pandith had a long history of terror crime records before joining a terrorist organization and several terror crime cases were registered against him for planning and executing terror attacks in the area after joining proscribed terror outfit JeM. He was also involved in the killing of a policeman Mohammad Yaqoob Shah of Pulwama in 2018, on the eve of Eid. He was also involved in some weapon snatching incidents reported from the area besides several cases were registered against him for his criminal activities including case FIR No 30/15 & 277/14 under NDPS Act and a case FIR No 25/16 pertaining to forgery.

Slain civilian Ishtiyaq Ahmad Bhat, who was killed in an encounter in Hendow village of Shopian on May 16, 2019. Two militants and army man was also killed during the gunfight

Similarly, Khalid who was operating as commander of proscribed terror outfit JeM was involved in several terror attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities in the area. Many terror crime cases were registered against him. Umar Mir was also involved in several terror attacks and was part of terror groups responsible for attacks on security forces.

Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition was recovered from the site of encounter. All these materials have been taken in the case records for further investigation and to probe their complicity in other terror crime cases.

Citizens are requested not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials.

People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosive materials if any.”

 Kupwara Incident

As the media was still busy with confirming the details of the Pulwama encounter, another report came in from north Kashmir’s Kandi area in Kupwara district where, as per a local new gathering agency who quoted army official as saying that a joint team of army’s 47 RR, 28 RR and SOG launched a cordon-and-search operation at Portel Nad and Razdan Nad – upper reaches of Kandi connecting Lolab forests, in which a militant was killed.

But police sources did not confirm to Kashmir Life about the encounter. Till evening Kashmir Life could not confirm who was the killed person. As the last reports came in, the security grid confirmed the exchange of fire is still going on in the area.

Bhaderwah Crisis

After Kupwara, another news reached from the Bhaderwah town of Doda district that curfew was imposed in the area after the killing of a person allegedly by cow vigilantes.

Reports said that the man namely Nayeem Shah, a resident of Mohalla Qilla Bhaderwah was allegedly fired upon by ‘cow vigilantes’ around 2 am, leading to his on the spot death. “In the incident, two of his associates managed to escape with minor injuries,” they said.

Soon after the incident, official sources said the protests broke out in the area against the killing. “As soon as the protests erupted, police and paramilitary forces deployed there intercepted the protesters triggering clashes,” sources said.

An official also confirmed that authorities had to call in the Army to assist the civil administration to maintain calm in the town. Officials said the curfew would remain in force till further orders. He also said seven persons were detained in connection with the case and authorities have appealed people to maintain communal harmony. Meanwhile, the Internet has been suspended in the entire district.

The Shopian Encounter

After this incident, another report of exchange of fire started coming out from Shopian’s Hendew village where a joint team of army, SOG of Jammu Kashmir Police and CRPF cordoned off the village.

As the encounter ended state police claimed to have killed three militants as a soldier survived injured in the encounter. All the three bodies were taken to district police line Shopian for identification.

After their families were called for identification, it was confirmed that out of the three, only two were militant and the third was civilian, Ishtiyaq Ahmad Bhat.

The militants were identified as Yawar Mushtaq Dar, son of Mushtaq Ahmad, resident of Thokarpora Bandpawa Shopian, who had joined militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen on September 28, 2018.

Another slain militant was identified as Shakeel Ahmad Dar, son of Abdul Gani Dar, resident of Tukroo Shopian, who had joined the same outfit just a month back, on April 15, 2019.

 Police Statement

 “On a credible input, a cordon and search operation was launched today by police and other forces at Handew area in district Shopian.

During the search operation, the hiding militants fired on the search party. In the initial exchange of fire one army jawan identified as Sepoy Rohit also sustained injuries. He has been hospitalized and is undergoing treatment. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter.

In the ensuing encounter, 03 militants were killed and the bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter. The identities and affiliations of the slain militants is being ascertained.

Incriminating material including arms and ammunition was recovered from the site of encounter.

Citizens are requested not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials. People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosive materials if any.”

Around midnight, police issued here another statement.“Apropos our earlier press release regarding encounter at Handew area in District Shopian, it is further informed that the injured Army Jawan Rohit Kumar Yadav has succumbed at the hospital and attained martyrdom while as the killed terrorists have been identified as Yawar Ahmad Dar resident of Bandpaho Shopian, Shakeel Ahmad Dar resident of Tukroo Shopian and one active associate of terrorists Ishtiyaq Bhat resident of Hendew Shopian.

According to the police records, the killed terrorists were affiliated with proscribed terror outfit HM. They were wanted by law for their complicity in a series of terror crimes including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities. Several terror crime cases were registered against them.

As per police records Yawar Dar was involved in planning and executing a series of terror attacks in the area and many other civilian atrocities. Several terror crime cases were registered against him. He was involved in Case FIR No 65/2018 pertaining to the terror attack on Zainpora Police Guard last year in which four policemen were martyred. He was also involved in Case FIR No 27/2019 pertaining to the civilian atrocities in Chitragam Shopian.

Shakil was also involved in several terror attacks on security establishments in the area. Many terror crime cases were registered against him. Similarly, as per police records, Ishtiyaq Bhat was an active associate of terrorists and earlier criminal cases including Case FIR No 252/2018 was registered against him for terrorist activities. His complicity in the instant incident is under probe.

A relative shower toffees on the funeral procession of top militant commander Naseer Pandith in Kareemabad village of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Kl Image by Bilal Bahadur

Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter. All these materials have been taken in the case records for the purpose of investigation and to probe their complicity in other terror crimes.

Citizens are once again requested not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials. People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosives materials if any.”

Reaction

After all the killings during the day, the joint resistance leadership under the banner of JRL called for a shutdown on Friday.

In a statement, the spokesman said, “Even in the holy month of Ramadhan there is no let-up in killings and bloodshed in Kashmir as civilians, armed youth or even Indian forces are getting killed.” It asked for a strike against the “gruesome” killings of innocent civilians Arshad Ahmad Dar (Pattan), Raies Ahmad Dar (Pulwama) and Nayeem Ahmad Shah (Baderwah) during the ongoing holy month of Ramadan.

JRL appealed the youth to maintain peace and discipline.

SKIMS Inputs

Meanwhile, two injured persons also succumbed to their injuries including a 23-year-old youth, Arshad Ahmad Dar, who was injured in police action on Monday (May 13) in Chanabal area of Pattan area and breathed his last during the intervening Wednesday-Thursday night. His body was laid to rest pre-dawn.

For the last three days, Dar, son of Ghulam Mohammad Dar was undergoing treatment at SKIMS where he was admitted after being shifted from JVC Bemina for specialized treatment. Arshid according to doctors had multiple injuries including on his skull and both eyes.

Another injured who succumbed today was a PDP activist, Irfan Ahmad who was injured in a militant attack on May 8 at Zainapora (Shopian). He also succumbed to his injuries on Thursday pre-dawn hours at SKIMS Soura.

Irfan, son of Abdul Hamid Sheikh, had firearm injury in his right thigh and was being treated in SICU.

Late night Thursday, the students in the Kashmir University’s Zakura campus assembled and offered the prayers in absentia for the slain of the day.

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