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3 militants killed in Lawaypora encounter: Police

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Families of slain youth claim they were not involved in militancy  

Photo-Javed Khan/Kashmir Images

Srinagar: Police on Wednesday claimed to have killed three militants in an overnight encounter in the city’s Lawaypora area but families of the slain youths said they had no connection with militancy and that two of them were students.

The families from south Kashmir’s Pulwama and Shopian districts also staged a protest outside the Police Control Room here and claimed that of those killed, one was a Class 11 student, one a university student and the other a carpenter.

“While one militant was killed in the early hours of Wednesday, two others were shot dead a few hours later,” a police spokesman said.

Identifying the trio as Ajaz Maqbool Ganie, Ather Mushtaq both residents of Pulwama and Zubair Lone resident of Shopian, police said that one AK 47 rifle and two pistols besides some ammunition and other incriminating material was also recovered from the encounter site.

Giving details, police said that on 29-12-2020, at about 05:30 PM troops of 02 RR launched a Cordon and Search Operation on a specific input near Hokersar where the militants hurled grenade on the searching party and fired indiscriminately on troops while laying cordon.

On receipt of this information Srinagar police immediately along with Police Component Srinagar and Valley QAT CRPF rushed to the spot, police said.

The police further said that search party of 02 RR was heavily fired upon by the terrorists hiding inside the building which was retaliated. Repeated announcements were made to the hiding terrorists to lay down their illegal weapons and surrender, instead the hiding terrorists fired continuously upon the searching party.

“Due to darkness the operation was suspended however the cordon remained intact throughout night. On 30th morning with the first light repeated announcements were again made to hiding terrorists to surrender, but the terrorists fired indiscriminately on security forces which was retaliated again resulting in elimination of terrorists. The operation ended over at 11:30 hrs in which all the 03 hiding terrorists were killed,” said police.

Meanwhile, an Army official said the slain youths were “hardcore terrorists” who used a lot of ammunition and grenades against the security forces during the encounter.

General Officer Commanding (GoC) Kilo Force H S Sahi said that the trio was planning a big strike on the highway to “gain publicity”.

Addressing a joint press conference at 2 RR headquarters at Zainakote, HMT, Srinagar, GoC Kilo Force said that in the past one week, five militants including a Pakistani national were killed in two separate gunfights in north Kashmir.

“Since past many days, intelligence inputs were pouring in continuously about the movement of militants on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. Yesterday, we developed leads and came to know that militants are hiding in a house right opposite to Noora hospital at Lawaypora in HMT area,” Sahi said.

He said that when the presence of militants got established, Army’s 2 RR, police and the CRPF repeatedly asked them to surrender.

“The militants fired indiscriminately at security forces and lobbed grenades as well. The operation was put on a halt due to dark but cordon layers were tightened. With the first light the firefight again resumed and militant used heavy ammunition against security forces,” the GoC said, adding that in the ensuing gunfight three militants were killed.

However, families of the three said that they were not militants.

The slain youths were Athar Mushtaq and Aijaz Maqbool, both students, and Zubair Ahmad, a carpenter, said the families, but did not disclose how old they were.

“My brother left for university at 11 am yesterday (Tuesday) as he had to fill some form there. He called me at 3.01 pm to say that he might have to stay at the university. Today, we got a call that he has been killed. He was not a militant,” Ajaz Maqbool’s sister told reporters.

Maqbool is the son of policeman Mohammad Maqbool Ganie, who is posted in Ganderbal district, she said.

“Yesterday at 10 a.m., he had tea with me and I swear about it. I don’t know where he was brought down from Sumo (cab). Is this what is going to happen in Kashmir? Is this democracy? Is this the governor Raj? Kill me. Why you killed him? He was a student,” said Bashir Ahmad Ganie, grandfather of  Maqbool, as per news agency GNS.

Aijaz was a resident of Putrigam village of Pulwama.

“Why was he killed? Was he a terrorist?” Ganaie told reporters outside Police Control Room (PCR) Srinagar. “Tell us why was our son killed? If they don’t, let them send ‘task force’ (SOG) and kill us all at home,” the elderly man was quoted as saying by GNS.

The families of other two slain youth — Ather Mushtaq Wani (a student of 11th class as per his family), son of Mushtaq Ahmad Wani from Bellow Pulwama, and Zubair Ahmad Lone (carpenter) from Turkewagan Shopian, also claimed that they were innocent.

During the encounter, vehicular traffic along the Srinagar-Baramulla highway had to take detours to avoid the Lawaypora stretch.

Meanwhile, dozens of youth also assembled near the encounter site and pelted stones on forces. Police fired pallets and dozens of tear smoke shells to disperse them. Locals said many people were injured in the police action.

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