Reyaz Rashid

2 militants, 4 security personnel killed in Kreeri gunfight

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Kreeri/Srinagar: Two Lashkar-e-Tobia (LeT) militants, two paramilitary CRPF personnel, an Army soldier and an SPO were killed and another soldier injured on Monday in a major and ongoing gunfight in Kreeri area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

Officials said the encounter began hours after a ‘naka’ (checking) party of the security forces was attacked by the militants.

Heavily armed militants hiding in dense cornfields and orchards attacked on a ‘naka’ party in Kreeri outskirts (Nawan morh) in which two CRPF personnel and a special police officer (SPO) of Jammu and Kashmir Police were killed.

“Militants taking advantage of wooded orchards and cornfields fled away with a service rifle of slain CRPF trooper,” said a police official.

Giving details of the encounter, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar talking to reporters on the site of attack said, after checking the statements of eye-witnesses and other technical details, it was learnt that three militants carried out the attack near a shallow stream behind the orchards when they fired on roadside where a joint team was on a normal ‘naka’ duty in which we lost our three security forces personnel including an SPO.

The slain SPO was identified as Muzaffar Ali of District Police Baramulla. Constable Lokesh Sharma and Constable Khurshid Khan of 119 Bn CRPF also fell to the initial attack, officials said.

“Just minutes after the attack, special operations group (SoG) of police engaged the militants and one of them was hit just at the bund, a few meters away from the attack site,” the IGP said.

He said the injured militant managed to go inside the orchards. “In the meantime, SoG men surrounded the orchards and after they were joined by the troops of 29 RR of Army and CRPF, one militant who was sitting on a tree, started firing. First he was killed by the security forces,” the IGP said, adding that “it was after him that the injured militant was also killed.”

Two Army personnel also sustained gunshot injuries and were shifted to hospital where one among them is stated to be critical, police said.  However, later in the evening, local news agency GNS reported that an army soldier was killed and another critically injured in an “ongoing encounter” in Kreeri area.

Defence PRO Rajesh Kalia also confirmed that an Army soldier lost his life.

The news agency also quoted the official sources as saying that the operation has been suspended for the night due to darkness and would resume at the first light tomorrow.

“As per sources, a top commander of LeT is believed to be trapped in the area. Two militants have so far been killed in the gunfight so far,” the news agency reported.

Meanwhile, police identified the two slain militants as Sajad Ahmad Mir alias Sajad Haider of Brath Kalan Sopore, and Anayatullah Mir of Andergam Pattan, who they said were affiliated with Lashkar-e-Toiba militant outfit.

Sharing details of the same encounter at a press conference in Police Control Srinagar later in the day, Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh said “the two killed militants have been identified. One of them is Sajad Haider alias ‘Jaja’ a resident of Dangerpora Sopore. He was a militant since 2016, and was active like (former Hizbul Mujahideen commander) Burhan Wani in the north Kashmir belt.”

Singh said like Wani, who was killed in an encounter with security forces in 2016, Haider was also responsible for making several people join the militant ranks in north Kashmir.

He said Haider was involved in the killing of BJP’s former district president Waseem Bari and two of his family members in July this year.

“We have arrested about 20 of those (militants who joined the militant ranks on the insistence of Haider) and have also neutralised his OGW network. He has a long list of crimes and was the main architect, the brain behind the killing of BJP’s former Bandipora president Waseem Bari and his brother and father,” Singh said.

The DGP said the LeT commander was also involved in the July 01 Sopore attack in which one CRPF personnel was killed and four others were injured. He was also involved in several other civilian killings, he added.

The DGP said after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August last year, Haider targeted fruit merchants including in Sopore on September 06 in which a person was killed and his four-year-old granddaughter was injured.

Recently, he started making audio and video recordings like former Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo — who was killed in an encounter with security forces in May this year — and threatening people including journalists, Singh said.

The DGP said Haider was the number one militant of LeT in north Kashmir and among the top ten in J&K.

“He was responsible for destroying many families… While obviously the killing of two CRPF jawans and a cop is a huge loss, but the way the police, CRPF and Army did the operation, it is a successful operation in the real sense and I hope that many families will heave a sigh of relief with his killing,” he said.

The DGP said the second militant who was killed in the encounter has been identified as Anatullah Mir, a resident of Pattan.

“He was trained by Haider in March this year. The chances are that the third one may be a foreign terrorist and reportedly Usman who was the commander, from the Pakistani side, of north zone of LeT. The exchange of firing is on and we have not yet retrieved the third body,” he added.

Giving details of the operation, the DGP said the police pressed its dog squad into action to trace the militants.

“The orchard area was cordoned off. The injured militant had removed his blood-soaked pheran (traditional Kashmiri cloak) and the militants had removed their haversacks which was very handy as we pushed our dog squad into action and the dog squad led us to a position where the gun battle started,” he said.

Asked about some hitherto groups taking responsibility for the attack on social media, the top cop said Pakistan was in a hurry to claim such notorious attacks.

“Karachi is too much in hurry to take responsibility for these kind of notorious attacks, they do not wait for the conclusion of these operations. Today, before they knew that the militants involved in the attack were killed, they had taken the responsibility. This is a kind of psy-ops from Karachi and is being done at the behest of LeT and JeM,” he said, adding, “I think they would get wiser with today’s incident.”

Earlier, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, said three militants suspected to belong to the LeT outfit carried out the attack. (With PTI inputs)

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