by Umar Khurshid
Srinagar: On Friday night around 2: 00 am, a joint team of Special Operational Group (SOG) of police and army cordoned off the Nowshehra, Srigufwara area of south Kashmir’s Islamabad district after receiving the inputs about the presence of militants in the area.
At 6 am, as the joint team of forces approached the suspected spot the hiding militants fired upon government forces triggering an encounter.
As the news of an encounter spread, the youth of the Nowshehra-Srigufwara village and other nearby areas started assembling near the gunfight site. Shouting pro-freedom and anti-governmental slogans the youth were seen demonstrating in order to help the hiding militants to flee from the spot.
Soon after the encounter broke out, a civilian Muhammad Yousuf Rather, 50, (the owner of the residential house where militants were hiding) was killed and his wife Hafeeza was critically injured.
After the dead body of a civilian Mohammad Yousuf rather was brought for the last rites, his son Sayar Ahmad Rather was not allowed by the government forces to have a last glimpse of his slain father, rather he was detained for questioning after four militants were killed in their home.
The locals had alleged that the husband and the wife suffered injuries in government forces firing. Later, an SPO Ashiq Hussain, of Special Operational Group, a resident of Tuingmulla Chittergul, Shangus belt of Islamabad district was killed while two army men suffered injuries.
Local sources said that Ashiq Hussain was the lone bread earner of his family. Ashiq’s father works as a labor during annual Amarnath Yatri. The family was dependent on his earnings.
As soon as the encounter broke out hundreds of people particularly youth marched towards the encounter site, triggering off massive clashes between the forces and the youth.
The police and paramilitary forces fired pellets and bullet and used tear smoke shells. Initially, several persons suffered injuries. Reportedly one among them, Ubaid Ahmad received bullet injury in his neck and his condition was stated to be critical.
Hospital sources said that the condition of two among the five with bullet injuries is stated to be critical having firearm injuries in their heads. Identified as Shahid Nazir Hajam, son of Nazir Ahmad Hajam and Burhan Shafi, son of Mohd Shafi Bhat, they were referred to SKIMS from Sub-district hospital Bijbehara.
All the injured were referred to different hospitals in Srinagar for specialized treatment.
Authorities have suspended the internet service in Pulwama, Islamabad, and Srinagar districts in the wake of the gunfight and the militant and civilian killings.
Later in the day, a wreath-laying ceremony was held at DPL Islamabad to pay homage to slain SPO Ashiq Hussain who was killed during the encounter. Police said that civil and Police officers led by Director General of Police Jammu and Kashmir S P Vaid laid floral wreaths on the mortal remains and paid rich tributes to the slain SPO.
Hurriyat (M) strongly condemned the killing of civilian Muhammad Yousuf Rather of Nowshera and injuring several others during the gunfight in Islamabad.
The APHC held a peaceful and silent sit-in protest in solidarity with the slain militants, after the Friday congregation prayers outside Jamia Masjid Srinagar. The Hurriyat said the sacrifices rendered by the youth of Kashmir will undoubtedly bear fruit.
Meanwhile, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik also staged protest demonstrations against the killing of a civilian and injuries to dozen others in Srigufwara.
Former Minister and senior PDP leader Abdul Rahman Veeri also expressed shock and dismay over civilian causality. “It is painful to see situations like this in which innocents become victims and families suffer,” Veeri said.
Police on Friday issued the following statement about the gunfight in Srigufwara area of south Kashmir’s Islamabad district.
“Pursuing credible leads about the presence of militants in Khiram area of Sirigufwara in District Islamabad, a search was launched by a joint team of Army, CRPF and Police in morning hours today in the area,” the spokesman said.
“As the joint patrol made an advance towards the suspected house, militants hiding inside fired indiscriminately on the security forces due to which a policeman Ashiq Hussain and a civilian identified as Mohammad Yousuf Rather, 53, son of Gull Mohammad Rather, a resident of Nowshahar-Khiram, got injured and succumbed to their injuries,” Police spokesman said. “Consequently some more civilians also got injured and were shifted to hospital.”
“In the encounter, all the four militants were killed who have been identified as Dawood Ahmad Sofi, Majid Manzoor Dar, Aadil Rehman Bhat and Mohammad Ashraf Itoo,” he added.
“Dawood Ahmad Sofi, 33, son of Mohd Subhan Sofi, a resident of Zainakoot HMT Srinagar was involved in a number of stone pelting cases in the area prior to joining the terror outfit. He was involved in a militant attack which resulted in the death of ASI Ghulam Mohammad and HC Naseer Ahmad at Bagh–Ali-Mardan Khan in Zadibal and also in the killing of a policeman and snatching his rifle at Tengpora Batamaloo besides other attacks,” the spokesman said.
“Majid Manzoor Dar of Talangam Pulwama also joined the militants and remained active along with Aadil Rehman Bhat of Shettipora Bijbehara and Mohd Ashraf Itoo of Hatigam Srigufwara Islamabad,” he said.
“Initially Dawood was known to be affiliated with TuM militant outfit. This militant organization was active on social media and mostly attacked the policemen on duty at different places. The social media profiling and inputs indicate that they were inspired by ISIS module,” the spokesman added.
“Incriminating material and a huge quantity of ammunition were also seized from the site of encounter.”
Police have registered a case in this regard and have initiated an investigation in the instant matter.
Army on Friday issued a statement regarding the gunfight in Srigufwara area of south Kashmir’s Islamabad district.
The spokesman said that based on specific intelligence, a joint operation was launched in the early hours on Friday by Army, JKP, CRPF in Naushera, the village of Srigufwara.
“While the search of the area was being carried out, government forces came under fire from one of the houses. One personnel of the SOG was killed and a civilian was grievously injured in militants’ fire, who, later succumbed to his injuries,” the spokesman said.
“In the retaliatory fire, two militants were killed initially. While search operations in the adjoining area intensified, militants, hiding in a “nullah” fired at the government forces,” he added.
“Two more militants were killed in the ensuing firefight. Total four militants have been killed so far and the operations are underway,” the spokesman said.