4 civilians, soldier killed; 60 youth injured in Kulgam
Holed up militants manage to escape
Kulgam, Apr 11: Four civilians and an army soldier were killed and over sixty civilians injured during a gunfight and ensuing clashes in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Wednesday.
The militants, three in number, managed to escaped as forces were engaged by stone-pelting mobs, sources said.
An official said that the gunfight broke out in Khudwani area of Kulgam district at 11 pm last night after government forces launched a cordon-and-search operation there.
“Security forces had launched a cordon and search operation in Wani Mohalla of Khudwani during the night following information about presence of militants there,” the official said.
He said three soldiers were injured in the initial exchange of fire with the militants out of which Sapper Sada Gunakara Rao (24), a resident of Andhra Pradesh, succumbed to injuries at 92 Base hospital of the Army here.
As the news of encounter spread in the area Wednesday morning, hundreds of locals marched towards the encounter site shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans and pelted stones at the government forces while trying to disrupt the anti-militant operation and help the militants escape, officials said.
They said government forces in a bid to disperse the protesting civilians, fired pellets, pepper and tear gas shells, while the locals said even live bullets were fired, which left over 60 civilians injured. Four of the injured civilians later succumbed to their injuries.
The deceased civilians were identified as Sharjeel Ahmad Sheikh (25) of Khudwani, Bilal Ahmad Tantray (16) of Hawoora-Mishpora; Faisal Illahi (14) of Melhoora Shopian, and Aijaz Ahmad Palla of Batpora Nagbal, Shopian.
Reports said that 60 civilians were injured in the clashes. At least two with pellet injuries in eyes have been shifted to a hospital in Srinagar for specialized treatment. Six others are also being treated at SMHS Hospital in Srinagar.
Meanwhile, police in a statement said that the civilians died in “cross-fire”.
In a statement, a police spokesman said that the hiding militants taking advantage of the crowd assembled across the river Jelhum which was very close to the target house and made indiscriminate firing.
Consequently 4 persons got injured and later succumbed to their injuries, he said.
He further said that in the incident 21 persons were injured out of which three have been discharged. Separately SFs injured are getting treated in hospital.
“Subsequently it is learnt that 2 militants escaped from the encounter site, one of whom is said to be injured. This injured militant is identified as Azad Dada of Arwani who is wanted in a number of serious cases involving killing of civilians,” said the spokesman.
He further said that one of the slain civilian, Sarjeel Ahmed Sheikh s/o Abdul Gani r/o Khudwani was involved in case FIR no 157/2017 U/S 302, 307,326,427 RPC 7/27 Arms Act of police station Anantnag and is an absconding accused of the court in the said case .
While disclosing that efforts have been intensified to nab the escaped militants, the spokesman requested general public not to come close to the encounter site as it is a considerable threat. “The DMs have already issued restriction orders in this connection,” he added.
Briefing reporters, senior police officers said there was specific intelligence about the presence of three local militants owing allegiance to Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba group at a house in the Khudwani area following which a cordon was thrown at 10 pm last night.
As the gun-fight outside the house (situated on the bank of River Jehlum) where the militants were holed up continued with bullets flying in every direction, locals started gathering on the other side of the river, police said.
“Repeated requests were made to the onlookers to leave the area as they were within the firing range. However, the warnings went unheeded and four civilians were killed in cross-fire,” police said.
However, locals in Kulgam alleged that the four civilians were killed when government forces opened fire on a crowd that was proceeding towards the encounter site.
Police officials said that after the civilians were killed in the “cross-fire”, the operation had to be called off for a brief time, to allow police and CRPF to disperse the mob that had gathered across the river.
“That the three militants, one of them seriously injured, had escaped became clear after the rubble of the house were cleared,” police officials said.
Meanwhile, as the news of civilian deaths spread, protests broke out in several areas of north and central Kashmir including Baramulla, Bandipora and Sopore towns.
Escaped militants resurface!
Kulgam: As the forces pulled out and called off the operation, the escaped militants emerged at the encounter site and thanked the locals for their help, local sources said.
They said the militants revisited the area and thanked the people for extending support and helping them to flee.
They promised to avenge the killing of four civilians, sources added.
CM grieves over deaths at Khudwani
Srinagar, Apr 11: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed grief at the loss of lives at Khudwani, Kulgam today. She has also paid tributes to the Army soldier who lost his life in the said incident.
The Chief Minister said there is an urgent need to get together to get Jammu & Kashmir out of this vicious cycle of violence and killings.
Mehbooba Mufti has conveyed her sympathies with the families of those killed and prayed for their eternal solace.