Shujaat Bukhari

Top Harkat-ul Mujahideen militant killed

SRINAGAR: The killing of a youth by Central Reserve Police Force personnel for trying to hurl a grenade in a busy market sparked strong protests from residents, who insisted he was "innocent."

Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh, a youth from Bandipore in north Kashmir, was shot dead by CRPF personnel during a routine search at Dalgate. CRPF spokesman Dilip Singh Ambesh told The Hindu that Sheikh was about to hurl a grenade when alert CRPF men caught him. "One of the CRPF jawans opened fire at him and the grenade exploded in his hand," he said. One more grenade was recovered from Sheikh's bag.

Mr. Ambesh denied that Sheikh was an innocent civilian. "Everybody has seen him doing that [trying to hurl the grenade] but it is yet to be ascertained whether he was an active militant or was just working for them," he said.

Srinagar Police chief Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba said that a student identity card of Amar Singh College was recovered from Sheikh. "It is being ascertained whether the card is real and investigations are being conducted into the matter taking into account the allegations of the local populace," he said.

Strong protests were held in Dalgate against the killing. A group of students from Amar Singh College staged a protest and said Sheikh was president of the Muslim Students Union. Muslim League chairman Mussarat Alam also told reporters that Sheikh was associated with his party. "Police has arrested a number of our activists ahead of August 15 and this boy was killed in cold blood. Is this democracy," he asked.

"Reign of terror"

Meanwhile, police and the CRPF killed Salman Bhatti alias Mast Gul, a notorious militant and commander of the Harkat-ul Mujahideen in South Kashmir. An official spokesman said Bhatti, a resident of Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan, was killed during a joint operation in Neeldora Shopian.

"He was responsible for scores of killings in the area and let loose a reign of terror," he said.

A Harkat spokesman confirmed Bhatti's death to news agency CNS but said his associates managed to escape.

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