Security forces gunned down 13 militants, including the killers of Lieutenant Umar Fayaz, in three counter-insurgency operations that began at night and went on till late Sunday afternoon in Anantnag and Shopian disricts of Jammu and Kashmir.
Three army jawans and four civilians also lost their lives and more than 50 others were injured in the operations. As reports of the pre-dawn crackdown by a joint team of the Army, Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force spread, several civilians came out of their houses and tried to shield the terrorists, clashing with security forces, according to police. In retaliatory firing by security forces, four civilians were killed and over 50 others were wounded. Some of them received pellet injuries and were admitted to hospital in Shopian, the police said.
The encounters took place in three different areas — Draggad, Kachdoora and Dialgam — in the two districts, in which a total of 13 terrorists was killed, said J&K DGP Shesh Paul Vaid. Seven terrorists were killed at Draggad and five at Kachdoora in Shopian, while one was killed at Dialgam in Anantnag, Vaid was quoted as saying in a Times of India (TOI) report.
In a major success, security forces eliminated two terrorists, identified as Ahmad Malik and Rayees Thokar, who abducted and killed Lt Umar Fayaz in May 2017 when the Army officer had gone to his hometown in Shopian to attend a wedding, Vaid said.
DGP Vaid told reporters that the security forces began operations based on specific information about the presence of militants at three places in south Kashmir. Operations were launched in Peth Dialgam in Anantnag district on Saturday evening after learning that two local militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen were hiding in a house in the area.
The Anantnag SSP tried to convince the militants to surrender. “He called the families of the two militants and let them speak to the ultras on phone to convince them to give up,” the DGP said. But the militants refused to yield and opened fire.
“In the retaliatory fire, a militant identified as Rouf Khanday was killed while another was captured,” he said. Rouf had joined militancy early this year and his picture with an AK-47 rifle had gone viral in the last week of March.
The army lost three soldiers in Kachudoora – Sepoy Hetram of Sonigasar Godard in Bikaner; Gunner Nilesh Singh of Nagri, in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh; and Gunner Arvinder Kumar of Sariana in Hoshairpur, Punjab.
Top security force officials said anti-militancy operations would continue in Valley and again asked the local militants to surrender. “I will like to make it clear that our operations against militants will not stop,” IG CRPF Zulfiqar Hassan told reporters while addressing a joint press conference with GoC 15 Corps Lt Gen AK Bhatt and DGP Vaid, said media reports.
Referring to people marching to encounter sites, IG said some people under the influence of anti-national elements go near the encounter sites and try to disturb the operations and appealed to them to stay away from the encounter sites. “At encounter site, anybody can get killed or hurt,” he said, adding, “We will tackle the crowd with restraint but won’t shy away from taking very strict action.”
In all the three encounters in south Kashmir, people, mostly youth, attempted to march towards the encounter sites and pelted stones on the security force personnel in order to pave way for militants to escape.
Lt Gen AK Bhatt appealed young people of Kashmir not to get carried away by Pakistan or their proxies to the path of violence. DGP Vaid appealed the local militants to surrender saying, “It is painful to all us of to see the loss of young lives.”
“I appeal the parents of boys, who have taken the wrong path, that they should convince their wards to leave path of violence and come home,” he said.
Security officials have in the past also appealed the local militants to give up violence, return to their homes and join mainstream. The CRPF has also set up a helpline “Madadgar” to facilitate surrender of the local militants.
Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti expressed grief over the death of two civilians during security operations in south Kashmir. She has also sympathised with those injured during these operations.
Mehbooba also paid tributes to three army men killed during these operations and conveyed her sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for peace to the departed souls.
Authorities have suspended mobile Internet and train services and ordered the closure of all colleges and schools in the Valley on Monday while separatist leaders called for a shutdown on Sunday and Monday.