SRINAGAR: Three Hizbul Mujahideen militants including a top commander and two soldiers were killed and three army men injured in an 18-hour long gunfight in south Kashmir’s Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday.
J&K Director General of Police, S P Vaid, told New Indian Express that police, paramilitary and army men launched combing and search operation in Awneera village of Shopian district last evening after receiving information that a group of militants were hiding there.
He said while the security personnel were conducting combing operation, they came under a heavy volume of fire from militants hiding in the area.
Sources said militants fired heavily on the search party from some houses in the cordoned area.
“Five army men were injured in the militant firing. They were evacuated to army hospital in Srinagar, where two of the critically injured soldiers succumbed to injuries,” they said.
Three other injured soldiers are undergoing treatment in the military hospital.
The deceased soldiers were identified as 25-year-old Sepoy Ilayaraja P of IIayangudi, Tamil Nadu and Sepoy Gawai Sumedh Waman, 25, of Akola, Maharashtra.
Sepoy Ilayaraja, who had joined the army in 2012, is survived by parents, wife and sister.
Sepoy Waman had joined the army in 2011. He has left behind parents, brother and sister.
A police official said after suffering casualties, more security personnel were rushed to the area to tighten the siege and prevent militants from escaping.
He said the militants continued to engage the security forces by continuously changing their positions.
The area was rattling with blasts and gunfire throughout the night.
A police official said the security forces launched a final assault on militants early this morning by targeting their positions from heavy gunfire.
Four houses were blown up by using explosives to force the militants to come in open, he said.
The militants, he said, rained volleys of bullets on security personnel after coming into the open and three Hizb militants were killed in the encounter that continued till 11 am.
The slain militants were identified as Mohammad Yasin Itoo alias Gaznavi, Umar Majid Sheikh and Irfan ul Sheikh, all locals.
Itoo, who was the operational commander of Hizb and most wanted militant, was identified by his family members who were brought to the encounter site to identify him.
Itoo’s name figured in the “hit list” of 12 wanted militants issued by the army in June.
He hailed from central Kashmir’s Budgam district. He was a tech-savvy militant and had released many videos. In the video released last month, he had warned of attacks on security forces.
A police officer termed his killing as a major jolt to Hizbul Mujahideen.
According to police, Itoo had joined Hizb in 1996 and was active till 2007 when he was arrested.
He again joined Hizb in 2015 and was presently functioning as operational commander of the outfit.
Sources said some militants may have escaped during the gunfight.
As the encounter was raging, the youth of the area took to roads and staged protests. Chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, the protestors tried to march towards the encounter site to pave way for militants to escape.
However, the police and CRPF men prevented the protestors from reaching near encounter site by firing tear smoke shells, pellets and resorting to heavy baton charge. The cops also fired in air to disperse the stone pelting youth. At least a dozen people sustained injuries in security forces action.
2 cops, army jawan injured
Militants fired from AK-47 rifles towards security men during a cordon and search operation (CASO) in Kochak Mohalla Hajin area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district this morning.
Two policemen identified as Mukhtiyar and Fayaz Ahmad and sepoy Raj Kumar were injured in the militant attack. The injured security personnel were hospitalized.
Sources said police, army and CRPF men had launched combing operation in the area after receiving inputs about the presence of three militants there.
The militants, however, managed to escape after attacking the search party, they said.
Civilian injured in blast succumbs
A civilian identified as Imtiyaz Ahmad Mir, who was injured in an explosion at Dalgate area of uptown Srinagar last evening, succumbed to injuries at a hospital.
He had sustained injuries when unknown persons lobbed a petrol bomb at Badyari Chowk in Dalgate area last evening, a police spokesman said.