Even as the manhunt was on for the terrorists responsible for the killing of Amarnath pilgrims, the security forces came face to face with civilians who tried to disrupt an operation to flush out terrorists in another part of Kashmir who engaged in a gun battle since Tuesday night. The three terrorists holed up were shot down and some civilians injured in the clash. With terror attacks on the rise, it was odd for the Minister in the PMO to claim that militancy in the Valley was in its final phase.
Security forces shot dead three militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district, sparking street clashes in Srinagar which injured several civilian protestors and security personnel on Wednesday, officials said.
Three Hizbul Mujahideen militants were killed in a gunfight with security forces in a village that began the previous day, the officials said.
The battle started on Tuesday evening after security forces laid a cordon around Radbug village, some 30 km from here.
The militants opened fire when the cordon around the house in which they were hiding was tightened, a police officer said.
The operation carried out jointly by the police, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Army, was halted after it got dark overnight. The exchange of fire resumed on Wednesday morning.
The militants rushed out of their hideout firing indiscriminately in a bid to escape. The security forces returned the fire and killed all the three, the officer said.
The slain men were identified as Javed Sheikh, Dawood and Sajad Ahmed Gilkar. Sheikh was the Hizbul district commander. Sheikh and Dawood were residents of Budgam district, CRPF DIG M. Dinakaran said. Gilkar hailed from Srinagar.
Dinakaran said an AK-56 assault rifle, a Self Loading Rifle, a pistol and seven magazines were recovered from the shootout site.
During the fighting, the security forces came under attack from villagers who hurled stones at them in a bid to help the militants escape.
“Villagers resorted to heavy stone pelting at the security forces to disrupt our operation. However, they were chased away,” Dinakaran said.
Clashes broke out in Nowhatta in Srinagar’s Old City area on Wednesday after stone pelters clashed with security forces as news of Gilkar’s death in Badgam became known. Gilkar belonged to Nowhatta.
Authorities then imposed curfew in the areas of Rainawari, Nowhatta, M.R. Gunj, Khanyar and Safa Kadal in Srinagar.
Several protestors and security personnel in addition to a photojournalist were injured in the clashes.
Meanwhile, scores of people offered funeral prayers for Javed Sheikh in Sadpora village of Badgam district, reports reaching here said.
Authorities have suspended mobile Internet services in Badgam and Srinagar districts to check the spread of militant propaganda.
Meanwhile, a massive manhunt has been launched in Jammu and Kashmir for Pakistani LeT terrorist Muhammad Abu Ismail, who, according to police sources, headed the group that attacked a bus carrying Amarnath yatris, killing seven pilgrims.
Police sources here said the 26-year old Ismail infiltrated into the Valley two years back and has since been carrying on terror activities in South Kashmir area.
“Abu Ismail with at least one foreign terrorist and two to three local terrorists of LeT carried out the attack on the Yatra bus on Monday,” said a source, adding information based on intercepts indicates that the attack was planned by him too.
“The terrorists came on two motorcycles and fired at least a hundred rounds from their automatic weapons at the bus at two places.
“After the first attack, the terrorists chased the bus and fired at it for the second time,” said a source, noting that although investigations into the terror attack were in the initial stages, yet the involvement of Abu Ismail had been established beyond any doubt.
Police believe the attack was carried out in revenge against the arrest of LeT terrorist Sandeep Kumar Sharma who had been produced before the media by the police.
Sharma, according to police, was involved in the killing of a SHO and five policemen in Achabal area of Anantnag district last month.
Militancy has entered its final phase in Kashmir, Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh said on Wednesday.
“Decisive headway has been made against militancy during the last few weeks. Militancy has now entered its final phase in Kashmir,” said Singh, who arrived here along with Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir, to assess the security situation in the aftermath of the terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims.
Interacting with the media, he said that the youth here is keen to be part of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s developmental journey.
“I am very optimistic that this militancy is also going to outlive its life as we have seen happening in other parts of the country.
“I think we are now in the last phase of the militancy”, Singh said.
He said when Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke of a final solution of the Kashmir problem he was, in fact, referring to ending militancy in J&K which is an integral part of the country.
“I think the final solution is being interpreted in different ways by different sections. It means that this protracted phase of militancy, terrorism and violence would finally meet its end,” said Jitendra Singh.
He also called on the civil society in Kashmir and the security forces have to cooperate with each other so that the situation gets better.
“The civil society cannot survive without the security forces as are the circumstances today.
“The security forces also know that they have to restrain themselves more than ever before in the last 25 years.
“The kind of restraint that they are exercising sometimes entails risk to their lives and jobs,” he said. (IANS)