SRINAGAR: A 24-hour-long encounter in a south Kashmir village ended with the security forces killing the third militant today, on a day the state police chief promised all possible help to rehabilitate the local militants who shun the gun.
Director General of Police S P Vaid, while making an an appeal to the militants "not only as the police chief but also as a father", said all the Senior Superintendents of Police and the Deputy Inspector Generals (DIGs) have been directed to facilitate the return home of the willing youth.
His appeal came on a day when the third militant belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen was killed in an encounter that had begun yesterday morning in Pulwama district's Bahmnoo village, about 60 kms from here.
Two militants, Jehangir Ahmad and Kifayat Khanday, were killed in the day-long encounter yesterday.
"The third militant, holed up in a building, was neutralised around 8 am this morning. Bodies of all the three militants along with three weapons were recovered from the scene of the gunbattle," an Army officer said.
"The killing of the three militants is a big achievement for the Army and a major setback for Hizbul Mujahideen outfit," he said.
Two soldiers were injured during the operation while four civilians sustained injuries in security forces action during protests near the encounter site.
The Army officer said Kifayat had joined militant ranks in May this year, while Jehangir was active in the area since November last year.
He said the Army had received a specific input about presence of militants in the village yesterday morning and had immediately launched a cordon-and-search operation.
After besieging the village, the first priority of the Army was to evacuate the civilians to safer places which took at least three to four hours initially, the officer said.
"While the civilians were being evacuated, the troops came under fire from a house. The troops retaliated the fire and engaged the hiding militant and neutralised him," he said.
Militants present in two other houses also fired upon the troops.
"Our priority was to ensure that there should be no civilian casualty during the operation and after we were sure that no civilian is present in the target area, we engaged the hiding militants," he said.
He said two other militants intensified the firing after the fall of the night but the troops closed in and retaliated effectively.
The firing from another house stopped but another militant continued the firing throughout the night, he said.
The building caught fire during the gunbattle and spread to adjoining houses, the officer said, adding the firefight ended around 8 am this morning with the killing of the third militant.
Asked about stone-pelting protests by locals during anti-militancy operations, the Army officer said "stonepelting in a hurdle but the local police and CRPF are dealing with it effectively.
"JK Police and CRPF are doing a wonderful job and effectively dealing with stone-pelting (trying to obstruct the operation against militants). The drills of JKP and CRPF is in place and stone-pelting incidents are least responsible for success or failure of any operation," he said.
Meanwhile, Director General of Police S P Vaid appealed to the "youth who have joined militancy" to shun the path of violence and return to their homes.
He promised to provide "all possible help including vocational training for their rehabilitation".
Vaid also appealed to the "parents of these youths to impress upon them to return home and promised them all possible help".
In his passionate appeal, the DGP said, "when the youth, who have joined militancy, call their parents during the encounters, he can feel the pain as a parent himself.
"Not only as a Police Chief but also as a father, I appeal to the youth to leave the path of destruction and return to their homes for living a normal life," Vaid said.
He said during the past few months, 54 youth involved in militancy-related activities were arrested and saved from moving further on the path of violence.
"Dring the past 27 years, about 25000 youth including those who had gone for arms training to Pakistan have either surrendered or left the path of militancy and are living a normal life," he said.