Press Trust of india

Officials blame ‘lack of synergy between forces’ for civilian casualties in Pulwama

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Srinagar, Dec 17:  Lack of synergy and miscommunication between various wings of government forces led to mayhem in south Kashmir's Pulwama district Saturday that resulted in the death of seven civilians after an encounter with Hizbul Mujahideen militants, officials said on Monday.

“The lack of synergy was to the extent that civilians had almost reached the Army vehicles engaged in encounter and there was serious apprehension that the mob could harm the personnel or loot the weapons,” they said.

“This had prompted the security forces to open fire at the unruly crowd which approached the encounter site at Sirnoo village from multiple directions Saturday,” they added.

Even the Governor's Advisor K Vijay Kumar, in his address to senior police officials Sunday, stressed on ensuring effective coordination and synergy between security agencies, besides exercising restraint to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage during anti-militancy operations and security-related drills in the Valley.

According to an internal probe, the day for the crack team began early Saturday morning and a hideout was raided in an area adjacent to Sirnoo village, which is the native area of Zahoor Ahmad Thoker, an army deserter-turned-militant, who police said was wanted in several cases, including the killing of rifleman Auranzeb in June and Sub-Inspector Imtiyaz Ahmad Mir in October.

“After drawing a blank from the first hideout, the crack team of security forces did not come up with anything at the second hideout as well but established contact with holed up militants in a couple of houses near an orchard.

"This was the third place raided by the crack team and here they were fired upon by the holed up militants," a senior security official said.

In the ensuing encounter, Thoker, who had gone missing in July last year from his camp in Gantmulla area along with an AK-47 rifle, was killed along with his two other accomplices.

“However, the crack team had not made adequate arrangements to ensure complete sanitisation of the encounter site because of paucity of time,” the officials said.

“People started thronging the encounter site as the outer cordon, which was to be thrown around by the CRPF and the local police, was not in place due to lack of communication,” they said.

As many as 20 people sustained bullet injuries Saturday out of which seven civilians died, including 28-year-old MBA graduate Abid Hussain Lone, who had come home along with his Indonesian wife and three-month-old baby.

By the time, local police along with the CRPF could reach the spot of the encounter, the damage was done and people were seen running helter-skelter rushing the injured people to the hospitals in Srinagar, a distance of 34 kilometres.

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