A self-styled commander of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) outfit and his associate escaped after engaging security forces in a gunbattle in Sopore town of Baramulla district, a senior police officer said on Sunday.
Basharat Saleem was believed trapped in a house along with an associate at New Colony locality of Sopore, 55 kms from here, last evening but gave the slip to the search parties comprising police, Rashtriya Rifles and CRPF, Deputy Inspector General of Police(north Kashmir) Abdul Qayoom Manhas told PTI.
An AK assault rifle, three magazines with 90 rounds, two hand grenades and a laptop were recovered from the scene of the gunbattle, he said.
“The operation was called off this morning,” Manhas said, adding “the militants had apparently fled late last night after fire broke out in the besieged house and the officers supervising the operation pressed fire tenders to control it from spreading to adjoining houses.”
The official said the search operation was launched last evening after police got an information about the presence of Saleem and his associate in a house in the area.
The militants exploded two grenades and fired on the search party which retaliated. At around 8.30 PM, fire broke out in the house where the militants were holed up, he said.
This is the third time that militants escaped after breaking security cordon in Kashmir within ten days. Earlier, five militants gave the slip to the security forces after exchanging heavy fire with them in Kulgam and Pulwama districts on January 23.
A civilian was killed in the Pulwama encounter which triggered massive protests as the locals accused security forces of using the deceased as a “human shield”, prompting authorities to order a probe.
Meanwhile, official sources said groups of youths took to streets in Sopore town soon after the cordon was lifted this morning and indulged in stone-pelting on police and paramilitary forces, alleging that there was no militant present in the area and the encounter was staged to harass the residents.
Policemen fired a few teargas shells and also used batons to chase away the protesters, the sources said, adding clashes were still continuing at nearly half a dozen places in the town.
“There was some law and order problem but the situation is under control at the moment,” the DIG said.