Majid Kapra

3 LeT militants, ASI killed in Pantha Chowk encounter

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A still from the Panthachowk encounter captured by Kashmir Images photographer, Javed Khan.

Srinagar: Three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants and an assistant sub-inspector of police were killed in a gunfight in the outskirts of the city here on Sunday, police said.

The encounter, officials said broke out after three bike-borne militants fired upon a CRPF ‘naka’ party along Srinagar-Jammu national highway at Panthachowk area last night. However no loss of life or injury was reported in the incident.

Militants, leaving behind their bike on the road, escaped from the scene and took shelter in a nearby school at Dhobi Mohalla locality. A joint team of police and CRPF later cordoned off the area and conducted door-to-door searches to nab the attackers.

As soon as the joint team of forces zeroed in on the suspected spot, hiding militants fired upon them triggering off an encounter. A militant was killed while an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) of police also suffered injuries in the initial exchange of fire.

The critically injured ASI, who has been identified as Babu Ram, was immediately shifted to the Army’s hospital for treatment, wherein he succumbed.

The encounter was later halted due to darkness and was again resumed in the morning in which two more militants were killed.

An AK-47 rifle and two pistols were recovered from the encounter site, officials said.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the wreath-laying ceremony of the slain ASI today, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh said the three militants came on a bike and fired at the joint party of the security forces.

“After firing upon the forces, they (militants) tried to snatch weapons, but it was foiled by the alert troops, forcing the militants to flee. They left behind their bike. The forces chased the militants who took shelter in a nearby area known as Dhobi Mohalla, Pantha Chowk,” he said.

The DGP said security forces acted swiftly and cordoned off the area till senior officers of police and the CRPF joined them to supervise the operation.

“The operation lasted the entire night. In the initial exchange, one militant was killed and we lost a brave ASI Babu Ram. He was well-trained and an experienced counter-insurgency cop. As the operation progressed, we killed two more militants,” he said.

Singh said the three slain militants belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba and one of them was a commander active since more than a year.

The top cop said the other two militants were given an opportunity to surrender, but they refused.

“We brought the families of two others from the Pampore area who appealed to their children to surrender, but they refused and instead fired upon the forces. We gave them an opportunity even as we had lost a colleague,” the DGP said.

Asked about the identity of the militants, he said the details will be shared later.

“The commander was active for the last one-and-a-half-year, while the details about the other two are being ascertained,” he said, adding, an AK-47 rifle and pistols were recovered from the slain militants.

A police spokesperson later in the day identified the three militants as Saqib Bashir Khanday, Umar Tariq Bhat and Zubair Ahmad Shiekh — all residents of Drangbal area of Pampore.

The spokesperson said as per police records, the killed militants were part of groups involved in planning and executing several militant attacks in the area.

“Besides a weapon-snatching bid at J&K Bank Pampore, Khanday was also involved in motivating and radicalizing the youth of the area to join militant folds,” he said.

Incriminating material including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of the encounter and have been taken into the case records for further investigation and to probe his complicity in other cases, the spokesperson said.

He said “keeping in view the prevailing pandemic due to COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of people from the inherent risk of contracting the infection, the bodies of the militants shall be sent to Handwara, in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, for burial purposes after completion of all medico-legal formalities.”

“The nearest family members of the killed militants shall be allowed to participate in the last rites at Handwara,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, to pay honour and respect to Babu Ram, a wreath lying ceremony was held at District Police Lines here where floral tributes were paid to the slain ASI.

The police spokesperson said R R Bhatnagar, Advisor to Lt Governor, led the officers and personnel in paying the homage.

The slain ASI’s body was later handed over to his next of kin for last rites, he said.


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