SRINAGAR: Tension prevailed in strife-torn Kashmir on Monday after killing of four civilians and two militants during a gunfight with security forces in south Kashmir’s Shopian district last evening.
Bodies of a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant Ashiq Hussain Bhat and a civilian Gowhar Ahmad Lone, who was pursuing MPhil, were recovered this morning near Pahnoo area in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, where a brief shoot-out had taken place between militants and army last evening.
With the recovery of bodies, the death toll in the shootout has risen to six.
Three civilians Shahid Ahmad Khan a class 12th student, Suhail Ahmad Wagay and Shahnawaz Ahmad Wagay, 22 and a LeT militant Amir Ahmed Malik were killed on Sunday evening after army men retaliated following militants firing on their Mobile Vehicle Check Post (MVCP) in the Pahnoo area of Shopian.
However, the villagers and family members of the deceased civilians alleged that the four were killed by army deliberately.
12 sector Rashtria Rifles commander Harbeer Singh and Commanding Officer of 44 Rashtria Rifles Colonel N S Negi in a joint press conference in Balpora, Shopian said army men deployed along road Trenz- Pinzoora near village Pohnoo noticed two speedy vehicles approaching the MVCP from village Trenz at around 8 pm yeterday.
“The army men signalled the vehicles to stop. However, the vehicles ignored the signal and continued to move. When a search light was flashed towards the vehicles, heavy firing came from both the vehicles. The fire was returned and in the ensuing gun fight, a militant firing from one of the vehicles was hit and fell off the vehicle and the vehicle veered off the road towards the nala and the second vehicle sped off,” said Singh.
He said the body of LeT militant Amir Ahmad Malik and an AK-74 rifle, three magazines and 88 rounds was recovered. “Three more bodies, who were accompanying the militant, were found in the vehicle during the search”.
The official said at 9 am today, the body of another LeT militant Ashiq Hussain Bhat was found from apple orchard of village Saidpura near the encounter site.
“In the morning, the second vehicle that had fired on the Army was found near Pinjoora, Shopian in which a youth Gowhar Ahmad Lone was found dead,” he said.
Singh admitted that four of the deceased were civilians.
He, however, said there is a thin line between Over Ground Workers (OGWs) of militants and civilians. “They were definitely civilians but it is a matter of investigations as to what extent they were involved in supporting the militants”.
On recovery of militant’s body near an encounter site this morning, he said, “This is a matter of investigation and police will look into it.
Deeply distressed by more deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire in Shopian. My heartfelt condolences to the deceased’s families.— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) March 5, 2018
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also described the four persons killed in the shootout as civilians.
In her message on social networking site Twitter, Mehbooba wrote, “Deeply distressed by more deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire in Shopian. My heartfelt condolences to the deceased families”.
A police official said police has filed FIR No. 54/ 2018 u/s 307 RPC, 7/27 I A Act regarding the incident and started investigations.
“The case was registered after the army unit filed a report about the incident,” he said.
He said police was investigating whether the deceased civilians were OWGs.
Tension prevailed across the Valley today with authorities imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar and south Kashmir to maintain law and order and foil protests.
The normal life in the Valley was disrupted by the shutdown called by separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik against the killings.
The youth at many places in the Valley clashes with the security personnel by pelting stones on them. The cops retaliated by lobbing tear smoke shells.
The separatist leaders have called for a march to Shopian on Wednesday.
In view of the tension in the Valley, all the educational institutions have been closed and exams postponed till Wednesday.
The killings have been strongly condemned by separatist, opposition parties, Kashmir-based legislators and bodies of traders, civil society groups and lawyers.
Meanwhile, thousands of people attended the funeral prayers of the slain civilians and LeT militants in Shopian amidst chanting of pro-Pakistan, pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
Militants also offered a gun salute to one of the slain militant Ashiq during his funeral prayers at Kapran.