2 alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants and 1 civilian were killed in an encounter between the LeT militants and security forces in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district today.
The militants killed at the spot, as per the preliminary unconfirmed reports, have been identified as Jehangir Ahmad Ganaie and Muhammad Shafat Sher Jugri. The 15-year-old civilian, who was killed, is identified as Amir Nazir. He has been shifted to Srinagar. Sources said he had a bullet injury in his neck.
While Ganaie was killed at the beginning of the encounter, police had brought the family members of Jugri to the encounter spot to persuade him to surrender. But he refused and vowed to continue to fight.
Meanwhile, locals hit the streets and started pelting stones at security forces near the encounter site. Security forces burst teargas shells to disperse the demonstrators, who were trying to move towards the sealed area.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Padgampora village of Awantipora around 2.30 am following information about the presence of militants in the area, a police official said. He said the militants opened fire at security forces around 4.40 am, which was retaliated by the law enforcement personnel.
Firing has stopped but search operation is still underway in the area. The government has suspended the Srinagar-Banihal train services as railway tracks pass near the encounter spot apprehending that miscreants might target the trains along the south Kashmir tracks. Security forces had also sealed all roads leading to the village.
The militants were hiding in two houses next to each other. This was a joint operation of 55 Rashtriya Rifles, the CRPF and the Special Operations Group of J&K police.
”We heard loud explosions and heavy exchange of fire since early this morning,” local residents said. ”We are not being allowed to move out of our houses by the security forces,” they alleged and said reports of stone pelting were received from some areas.
This is the first civilian casualty since Army Chief General Bipin Rawat warned civilians to stay away from encounter sites, saying those involved in stone-pelting on forces during gun battles with militants will not be dealt differently.
Army Chief Bipin Rawat stated that the civilian protestors obstructing encounters, would be treated as ‘over ground workers of militants’ dealt with ‘harshly’ and army could go ‘helter-skelter.’ The statement triggered a political controversy and Rawat was criticized both in J&K and Delhi
The militants are believed to be locals from nearby Queil area in Pulwama and are reportedly associated with the banned Pakistani militant organization LeT.
Officially neither the army nor the local police have confirmed the details so far.