SRINAGAR: In a major achievement, security forces on Saturday killed five militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen including a top commander during a fierce gunfight in south Kashmir's Kulgam district.
Meanwhile, a civilian died and 20 others sustained injuries in security forces firing on protestors during clashes near the encounter site.
A police official said a joint contingent of Police, CRPF and army men laid siege around Chowgam area of Qazigund in Kulgam district last evening about receiving inputs about presence of militants in the area. He said after plugging off all escape routes, the security men conducted search operation in the area.
"As the security men were conducting searches, they came under a heavy volume of fire from militants hiding in a residential house in the area. The fire was returned by the troops, triggering an encounter," the official said. He said as the gunfight was going on, troops moved civilians from the encounter site to safer areas to prevent collateral damage during the operation. The heavy exchange of gunfire between the two sides continued till the afternoon and ended after killing of all five militants hiding in the house.
Sources said two security men were also injured in the gunfight. The house, where militants had taken refuge, was damaged during the encounter. The official said the militants belonged to Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen and a large cache of arms and ammunition were recovered from the encounter site.
The deceased militants were identified as Gulzar Ahmad Padder alias Saif R/o Kulgam, Faisal Ahmad Rather alias Dawood R/o Kulgam, Zahid Ahmad Mir alias Hashim R/o Kulgam, Masroor Molvi alias Abu Darda R/o Anantnag and Zahoor Ahmad Lone alias Rehman Bhai R/o Damhal Hanjipora, Kulgam. The police official termed killing of five militants as a major jolt to Lashkar and Hizb in the Valley. He said Gulzar was close associate of Hizb commander Altaf Kachroo, who was killed recently. "He was involved in a series of militant attacks including killing of five cops and two bank employees in attack on bank cash van last year".
"He was also involved in killing of SPOs, looting police guards at Damhaal and weapon snatching cases in Kulgam and bank robbery cases in the district," the official said. As the encounter started, the locals of the area, especially youth, came out on roads and attempted to march towards the encounter site to pave militants to escape from the site.
The youth pelted stones on the security men after being intercepted and pushed back. The security fired bullet, pellets and tear smoke shells to disperse the protestors. In the security forces action, about 22 persons sustained injuries. One of the injured identified as Rouf Ahmad Ganai, who was hit by bullets, died while being shifted to hospital.
Some of the injured with pellet injuries were referred to Srinagar hospitals for specialised treatment. After the killing of militants and youth, authorities suspended mobile internet services in entire Kulgam district and also suspended the train services between Qazigund to Baramulla in the Valley as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik have called for shutdown on September 17 (Monday) against killings in south Kashmir. They alleged that forces have converted Valley, especially South Kashmir into a battle field and going on killing spree. They also asked people to offer funeral prayers in absentia of the six people killed in Kulgam today tomorrow after afternoon prayers.