A Team KL Report
SRINAGAR: In three operations that started in the dead of the night sent an unprecedented number of body bags within and outside south Kashmir. So far, the dead include 13 militants, three soldiers and four civilians and nearly 100 injured. Some may survive with serious handicaps throughout their life.
Terming it a “very bloody Sunday”, Omar Abdullah asked why there are no alarm bells ringing in Delhi. “Of the 12 confirmed dead I understand 11 are local Kashmiris & the identity of the 12th is being ascertained, not one so far is a foreign terrorist,” he wrote on the twitter. “Is no one in a position of power in Delhi alarmed by this because I certainly am!”
The Sunday operations were carried out jointly by the Rashtriya Rifles, CRPF and the Special Operations Group (SOG). All the three gun battles had different details.
This ‘gun battle’ in which one militant was killed and another captured alive was an extension of a different encounter that had started in Kokergund village in Verinag. The slain militant Rouf Khanday was actually broadcasting the happenings to his family from the first shot in Koker Gund.
His father, Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Dahruna, told reporters that his son informed them on the phone that they were three militants and somehow escaped after a brief exchange of fire. He also told them that he has taken shelter somewhere else.
By around 1:40 am, cops were at Bashir’s door. They took Mrs and Mr Bashir to Dialgam where their son was trapped in the two storey home of Assaduddin Khan, located on the main road. They approached their son and suggested them to surrender. Rouf was enrolled in BA (I) year in the state-run Degree College in Islamabad and joined militancy in February 2018. He did not find his parents’ idea attractive, sought apologies and decided against surrender. The parents left out of the place.
In the next stage, the security grid permitted the family to move out. They brought with them another young man. As the police started quizzing the civilians, they found a militant in them. Identified as Imran Rashid of Bijbehara, he had recently joined militancy and was with Khanday without a weapon. He was immediately taken into custody.
Within seconds, the ‘encounter’ started. As Khanday emptied his ammunition stock, Khan’s home went up in smoke leaving almost nothing untouched. The destroyed assets include his car and a scooty, reports said. By around 4 am, it was over and the joint posse of 19-RR, 164-CRPF and SOG were readying back for their garrisons. During wee hours, the Khanday’s who had come to convince their son to give up and survive, took his body home for burial. Multiple funeral prayers later, he was lowered in the grave.
The Draggad Incident
This one was completely different. The spot of the “clash” was in an isolated locality where three Mengnu brothers had raised their three home, in the outskirts in open fields. It is a completely free space. One of the Mengnu brothers is Inam-ul-Haq, a 2012 IPS officer and he is posted outside J&K.
Rafiq Ahmad Mengnu whose wife is a relative of Turay’s in Shopian, according to police, was visited by 11 militants. They had come in two groups. Post-dinner, they somehow felt they are being zeroed in. They broke in the two groups. One group of four militants hurriedly left and the seven were caught.
A quick battle followed. As the first light broke, four were seen dead in a corner, one on the veranda, one in a neighbouring house and another one in an open space.
Police said they are trying to establish how the civilian Mushtaq Ahmad Padroo was killed. There are many reports in circulation, a police officer said. One version is that he was taken by the army to show them the way. Another version is that he was mistakenly killed and yet another version is that he was caught in the crossfire. Which one of the versions is correct needs investigation? Earlier in the press conference at Awantipore, the police chief said he was the house owner.
The Kachdoora Killings
Unlike the two gun battles that were one-sided, as the casualties suggest, this encounter was different because it had casualties from all sides: three militants, three civilians and three soldiers.
Police sources said the Kachdoora was cordoned off at around 2:30 am and it was in response to hard intelligence about the presence of some militants in a cluster of homes. The village is strategically located between the vast Kulgam and Shopian ranges and overlooks a vast belt.
The belt of houses belongs to the sons of Abdul Rehman Lone. After the cordon was over, announcements were made from the public address system asking the inmates to come out. The men and women were segregated and asked to sit in separate houses. Soon, the contact was established.
The fierce gun-battle continued till 4 pm. Three militants were killed in the first round of clashes during which the house was destroyed. Though the security grid felt that it was over, the situation was completely different. In the counter-attack by militants, four soldiers were hit by bullets. While two of them succumbed to their injuries quickly, the third soldier died later in the afternoon.
State Police Chief S P Vaid said they have killed three militants in Kachdoora. But the details available with Kashmir Life suggest, five militants were actually killed.
Army sources in Shopian confirmed to Kashmir Life that they are in possession of three slain militants, perhaps the group that DGP is also confirming. The locals actually have taken possession of two dead bodies, both burnt beyond recognition. One of them was identified by locals as a resident of Hilov and the villages came and took his possession. The other body was driven by the villages to Shopian where residents of Jamnagri and Vehil were claiming him. The two groups of villagers were in the process of settling the issue when SOG appeared on the scene outside the hospital, resorted to massive firing and took over the body.
As the army declared the operation over after a cluster of the house was either destroyed or seriously damaged, the locals took over the scene of action. From a seriously damaged concrete slab, they have recovered two militants alive. Civilian sources suggest that one of them was all right and has fled to safety. The other, they said is very critical and may not survive.
A senior police officer said the fact is both were alive and have left for their hideouts. He said they have been able to identify three of the five militants killed in the encounter: Ishafaq Thokar of Thukarpora, Aitimaad of Amshipora and Sameer Lone of Hilov.
As nearly 100 people are believed to have survived with injuries, some with very serious ones, there were four civilian deaths during the day. The first to be killed was Padroo in Draggar village near Sugan.
Zubair Ahmad Bhat, son of Abdul Ahad Bhat, a resident of Goaplpora, was the second casualty. He received injuries in Kachdoora protests and succumbed later.
Later in the afternoon Mehrajuddin Bhat, another civilian, also a resident of Kachdoora was killed. Dr Abdul Rasheed Parra, Medical Superintendent of District Hospital Pulwama, confirmed that his hospital received Bhat brought dead.
By evening, the SKIMS confirmed to Kashmir Life that Iqbal Bhat son of Manzoor Ahmad of Khasipora Shopian has died in the hospital. He had received a bullet wound in his abdomen in police action during clashes in Kachdoora.
Police sources identified two of the three slain soldiers as Haitram Godara of 34 RR and Lance Naik Nilesh Singh, also from 34 RR. The identity of the third soldier killed in the Kachdoora incident was not immediately confirmed. The injured soldiers were identified as Sepoy Hardev Singh of 19 RR – splinter injury right leg, NK Vinay Kumar of 34 RR gunshot wound in right leg, Sepoy Hari Om Pundir of 44 RRwho has gunshot wound in left wrist and left Ulna, NK Sreekanth of 44 RR having gunshot wound in right arm, right lower chest and abdomen. The entire injured are admitted to the 92 Base Hospital.
There were huge funerals in most of the cases. The funeral prayers of the Dialgam militant was led by his father Bashir Ahmad.
The interesting case was reported from Shopian where one of Turay’s friend’s offered funeral prayers, donned combat dress, exhibited his gun publicly and joined militants. A police source confirmed the report.
“We have seven bodies still awaiting funerals which include two civilians and five militants,” a senior police officer said. “That means Monday is also going to be crucial.”
Scenes In Hospitals
Traumatic scenes were seen at SMHS Hospital in Srinagar, where 50 patients with bullet and pellet injuries were admitted on Sunday. Throughout the day and evening, volunteers and attendants were busy carrying the injured to the operation theatre and emergency ward.
Volunteers were seen distributing the food items and medicines among the attendants who carry injured to hospital.
Most of the beds in the emergency ward were occupied by patients from south Kashmir districts.
Reports said over 100 civilians were injured in clashes near two gunfight sites in Shopian district of south Kashmir on Sunday.
At least 50 youth in the age group 16 to 26 with pellet and other injuries were brought to SMHS hospital from Shopian district.
Doctors at SMHS hospital said that they have received 50 injured persons among them three have bullet injuries and other have injured by pellets and shells.
A doctor attending patients in ward no 8 of the hospital said: “We received 25 patients in our ward among them 23 had injuries in one eye and three had injuries in both eyes.” The doctor said that most of them have received injuries on the left side.
Over 10 persons with pellet and bullet injuries from different areas of the south Kashmir were received at Bone and Joint Hospital Srinagar here by the evening said the hospital authorities. Of them, six persons had received bullet injuries and four were injured by pellets.
Hospital sources from SKIMS Soura said that at least 15 patients were received by the hospital with multiple injuries, of whom, Mohammad Iqbal succumbs to his injuries.
Police issued the following statement on the three gun battles:
“Pursuing credible leads of the presence of terrorists, Shopian Police and SFs started a search operation in Draghad and Kachdoora areas of Shopian district.
While the searches were going on, the hiding terrorists fired upon the search parties, ensuing encounters at both the sites.
At Draghad, seven terrorists were neutralized. They have been identified as Adil Ahmed Thoker of Humhuna, Nazim Dar of Nagbal, Ubaid Shafi Malla of Trenz, Yawar Itoo of Safanagri, Rayees Ahmed Thoker of Padarpora, Zubair Turay of Shopian and Ashfaq Malik of Pinjura.
Apparently, this group had joined HM in the summer of 2017 and were involved in series of cases of attacks on civilians and security forces; the killing of Lt. Umer Fayaz is one among them.
All the bodies have been handed over to families for their last rites.
At Draghad, while the search party entered the target house, they found the body of one Mushtaq Ahmad Thoker along with the dead terrorists. There was no collateral damage of property at this encounter site.
At Kachdoora Shopian, three more terrorists have been killed whose identities and affiliations are being ascertained.
At Kachdoora three army men laid down their lives in the line of duty and a civilian namely Zubair Ahmad Bhat resident of Gopalpora received firearm injury in the crossfire and subsequently succumbed. Some of the other injured in the incident are being treated at different hospitals.
Meanwhile, in the process, the incriminating material including AK 47 assault rifles, grenades etc have been recovered.
FIR’s into the incidents have been registered and the investigation was taken up.
We request citizens not to fall prey to any speculations and rumors which are intended to disturb the peace. J&K Police seeks your cooperation for maintaining order.”
Earlier in the day, the Commander of Srinagar based 15 Corps Lt Gen Anil Kumar Bhatt and State Police Chief S P Vaid along with a senior officer of the CRPF addressed media at the Victor Force Headquarters at Awantipore. The interaction was brief and they gave the status of the operations. CRPF officer suggested people should stay away from encounter sites and if they will not, the force will not hesitate in taking a serious action.
Vaid said it was the biggest operation of the recent times in which the entire security grid exhibited a textbook unison and coordination. He said they had given the Diyalgam militants a chance to return home but he did not accept the offer. General Bhatt was happy that they had avenged the death of the young lieutenant Umar Fayaz who was kidnapped and killed last summer.
Lt Gen AK Bhatt said the death of Lt Umar Fayaz, who was brutally killed in Shopian in 2017, had been avenged. “Among the militants killed are Ishfaq Malik and Rayees Thokar. They were responsible for his death,” Bhatt said.
Fayaz, 22, was killed by militants in May last year. His body was found with bullet wounds in the Herman area of Shopian district in south Kashmir.
State Police Chief made a special mention of an SSP’s efforts to convince the militant at Dialgam to surrender. “I would like to make a special mention about the Dialgam encounter where our Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) made a special effort, which is unheard of in any part of the world,” Vaid said. “He called his family members and they spoke with him for 30 minutes, to convince him to surrender. Unfortunately, he did not heed the advice of his family.”
(The copy was reported by Muhammad Younis (Awantipore), Shah Hilal (Dialgam), Sheikh Hilal (Shopian), Hikmat Yar (Kachdoora), Saima Bhat, Tahir Bhat, Shuaib Wani (Srinagar). Masood Hussain edited the copy.)