Terror groups in the Valley suffered a major setback on Sunday as 12 terrorists were gunned down in counter-insurgency operations in three different areas in South Kashmir in which three Army jawans and four civilians were also killed. Deadly protests erupted in several parts following the operations.
At a hurriedly called joint press conference of army, police and CRPF, Jammu and Kashmir Police chief SP Vaid said this is one of the biggest counter-offensives in recent times against terror groups operating in the Kashmir Valley. The operations by security forces rendered a severe dent to militant groups such as the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashker-e-Taiba, officials said.
Three army jawans have lost their lives in the operations at Kachdooru in Shopian, officials said, adding three bodies of militants have been recovered from the debris so far. The operation has been called off at Kachdooru and the security personnel will search the debris again on Monday.
Earlier, at a press conference at Victor Force headquarters at Awantipura, Corps Commander of XV Corps, Lt Gen AK Bhatt, termed it one of the biggest operations in recent times and said the death of Lt Umar Fayaz, who was brutally killed in Shopian last year, had been avenged. “Among the militants killed are Ishfaq Malik and Rayees Thokar. They were responsible for his death,” Bhatt said.
Fayaz, 22, was killed by militants in May last year. His body was found with bullet wounds in the Hermain area of Shopian district in south Kashmir.
The DGP said, “I would like to make a special mention about the Dialgam encounter where our Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) made a special effort, which is unheard of in any part of the world. He called the family members of one of the terrorists. They spoke with him for 30 minutes, to convince him to surrender. Unfortunately, he did not heed the advice of his family. During the talks, the district SSP tried to get him over. Instead he fired on the police leaving the police with no option other than to retaliate. He was killed. The other one was caught alive.”
About the Kachedoora operation, the DGP said there was information about the presence of four to five militants, but “we’ll be able to give a clear picture only after the debris is cleared”.
As the fighting raged, protests erupted in several villages in southern Kashmir in solidarity with the militants. Many protesters also tried to march to the gunbattle sites to help the trapped militants escape, leading to clashes between stone-pelting residents and security forces who fired live ammunition, shotgun pellets and tear gas. One civilian death was reported from Draggad and the other from Kachudoora, both in Shopian district. Violence broke out at the Kachedoora encounter site in which 25 civilians received pellet injuries while six others suffered bullet injuries, the police chief said. He added that all the seven militants killed in Draggad were locals and their bodies have been claimed by their families.
Authorities have suspended trains and cut cellphone internet services in the most restive towns, and reduced connection speeds in other parts of the Valley. Curfews has been imposed in some areas. Separatists leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, who had given call for a two-day shut down against the killings, were put under house arrest.
Pointing out that people came in large numbers at the encounter site in Shopian, Inspector General of CRPF Zulfikar Hassan said, “The operations will not stop and we’ll have to take all offensive measures in case they don’t refrain from throwing stones at the jawans engaged in the operations.” “It was painful to see young boys getting killed. I urge all parents to appeal to their children to shun the path of violence and join the mainstream,” Vaid said.