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Six militants killed in Bijbehara encounter

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Militant wanted in Shujaat Bukhari's murder case among slain: Police

Anantnag, Nov 23: Six militants, including one involved in planning journalist Shujaat Bukhari’s murder and three commanders, were killed in an early morning encounter at Bijbehara in south Kashmir, police said Friday.

Government forces had launched an operation in the foothills of Wagahama in Shalgund Satkipora Thursday night following information about the presence of militants in a hideout there, police said.

The police said there was firing from a house and the six militants were killed when they were trying to escape under the cover of darkness in the ensuing encounter.

“It was a swift operation based on intelligence inputs provided from the ground,” Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range) Swayam Prakash Pani said here after the encounter ended.

The slain militants were identified by the police as Azad Ahmad Malik of Arwani in Bijbehara, Unais Shafi of Takiya Maqbool Shah, Bijbehara, Basit Ishtiyaq of Pushwara Anantnag, Atif Najar of Waghama Bijbehara, Firdous Ahmad of Muchpuna Pulwama and Shahid Bashir of Kawni Awantipora.

“It was a combined group of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashker-e-Taiba. Unais Shafi and Basit Ishtiyaq, as per police records, were with the Hizb — and Unais was Hizb’s commander of Anantnag district. The others were with the LeT,” a police spokesman said.

All the six militants were wanted by the law for their complicity in a series of militancy incidents, including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities, he said.

The police said Azad Ahmad Malik alias Azad Dada, who was the district commander of LeT Anantnag, had escaped from an encounter site at Khudwani Kulgam in April this year along with one more associate.

“Azad was a close associate of absconding accused Naveed Jatt and was wanted in the assassination of journalist Shujaat Bukhari and his security personnel. In this case, a hue and cry notice was issued against him along with three others on the basis of material evidence collected,” the police spokesman said.

Bukhari was killed on June 14 this year during the holy month of Ramazan at Press Enclave here while he was on his way to break his fast.

The police spokesman said a huge quantity of arms and ammunition, including four AK-47 rifles and one Insas rifle, were recovered from the site of encounter. All materials were taken in the case records for further investigation, he said.

The police advised citizens not to venture inside the encounter zone as the area could be dangerous due to stray explosive materials.

They requested the people to cooperate with the police till the area was completely sanitised and cleared of all the explosives materials, if any.

Last month, seven civilians were killed in Kulgam in south Kashmir when they thronged an encounter site which was not sanitised.

Meanwhile, at least three protesters were injured in clashes with the government forces in Bijbehara area following the killing of six militants today morning.

An eye witness said that forces fired live ammunition and tear-gas at the protesters who were pelting them with stones, leaving three injured.

Reports said that the injured were shifted to sub-district hospital Bijbehara for treatment wherefrom one of them with a bullet injury was referred to a hospital in Srinagar for specialised treatment.

Massive clashes also erupted in Khanabal area of the district amid a complete shutdown against the killings.

Reports said that forces fired tear gas and pellets on the protesters in Khanabal.

Reports also said three rounds of funeral prayers were held for slain LeT commander Azad Ahmad Malik at his native Arwani area of Bijbehara later in the day.

Witnesses said that thousands of people reached Arwani from nearby and far-off places to take part in the last rites of Malik.

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