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Two militants, four civilians killed in Shopian ‘firing incident’

Expressing solidarity: Militants displaying guns during the funeral procession of a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant at Rakh Kapran in Shopian district on Monday.

Expressing solidarity: Militants displaying guns during the funeral procession of a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant at Rakh Kapran in Shopian district on Monday.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants and four civilians were killed in “a firing incident” in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday evening.

Amid conflicting versions from the Army, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the victim families on Monday, there were widespread protests, a clampdown by security forces and a shutdown.

Vehicles flagged down

According to Brigadier Harbir Singh and Colonel N.S. Negi, two speeding vehicles were asked to stop near Shopian’s Pohanu village around 8 p.m. on Sunday by the Army’s mobile vehicle checkpost.

“However, both vehicles continued to move. When a search light was flashed, heavy firing came from the vehicles. In the gunfight, one terrorist was hit and fell off. The vehicles sped off,” said the Army officials.

The Army said the bodies of two local LeT militants, Amir Ahmad Malik and Ashiq Hussain Bhat, were found at two spots.

While Malik died at the encounter site, Bhat’s body was found in an apple orchard in Saidpura village on Monday morning, the Army said.

“During the search, three bodies were found in one vehicle. The second vehicle was spotted at Pinzura village, with a person dead inside. These individuals were accompanying the terrorists and were overground workers,” the Army said. Two weapons were recovered from the slain militants.

 

JeM leader killed

Meanwhile, the Army claimed to have killed the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) mastermind of the Sunjwan camp attack at Awantipora in Pulwama.

“JeM’s operational commander Mufti Waqas has been eliminated in a surgical attack,” Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

Waqas, a Pakistani, was killed in a joint operation “based on specific intelligence.”

“This has resulted in a major dent to the designs of the JeM,” the Army said.

Waqas, a category ‘A plus plus’ militant, was behind the Sunjwan and the Lethpora attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. Ten people, including six jawans and one civilian, were killed in the Sunjwan attack last month.

According to the family members, the four deceased youths in the two vehicles — identified as Gowhar Ahmed Lone, Suhail Khaleel, Mohammad Shahid Khan and Shahnawaz Ahmad Wagay, all residents of Shopian — were “civilians.”

“My son is not an overground worker. He is a Class 12 student. It’s a cold-blooded murder,” said Khan’s father Bashir Ahmad. Wagay’s brother said he had spoken to him “half-an-hour before the incident,” and contested the Army’s claims.

Contrary to the Army’s views, Ms. Mufti expressed “distress over the deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire”. Ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vice president Sartaj Madni called the Shopian incident “outrageous” and condemned it.

PDP's MLA from Shopian, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, demanded a “judicial probe”. "No circumstances can justify these civilian killings," he said.

“We will investigate if the killed youth had any affiliation with militant outfits,” said Director General of Police S.P. Vaid, while making an appeal to people “to maintain calm”.

Protests spread in Valley

The killings in Shopian, where five civilian had died in security forces’ operations in the past two months, sparked fresh violent protests in Srinagar, Anantnag, Pulwama, Budgam and Kulgam.

It evoked a complete shutdown in entire Valley on the call of the separatists.

Restrictions were imposed in parts of Srinagar, Pulwama and Shopian “as a precautionary measure”. Several Hurriyat leaders and separatists, including JKLF chief Yasin Malik, were arrested. Train services and Internet was stopped in south Kashmir.

Schools, which were to reopen after three-month-long of winter break on Monday, were closed again till March 7. Examinations by the J&K board, Kashmir University and Islamic University of Science and technology, were cancelled. Prestigious Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS) examination was also put on a hold.

Mainstream, separatist condemn

Demanding a probe, former chief minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah said, “The Shopian incident is yet another stark reminder of the grave and rapidly deteriorating situation in the Valley and the varying accounts from the CM and the security forces are unfortunate. It further perpetuate the sense of disenchantment, distrust and alienation.”

CPI (M) leader and MLA Kulgam, M. Y. Tarigami said “unless deterrent action is taken against those, involved in such incidents, these are going to be repeated”.

“Whatever the excuses, killing of unarmed and uninvolved civilians has no justification,” said Mr. Tarigami. He appealed to “the democratic forces in the rest of the country to pressurize the government so that the security forces are made accountable”.

Separatist Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), which comprises Syed Ali Geelani’s Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and Yasin Malik’s JKLF, has called for a protest march towards Shopian on March 7.

“The trigger-happy forces are deployed to kill Kashmiris and the pro-India politicians are here to provide a legal cover to the killers,” said a JRL spokesman.

“Lies and propaganda are being spread by the Army,” said the Mirwaiz.

Militant conglomerate, United Jihad Council, chief Syed Salahuddin said “India will get nothing but only disappointment by targeting innocent civilians.”

Mahmood Shah, chief of the LeT, Lashkar-e-Taiba, also condemned the civilian killings. “The Narendra Modi government was upset with the never-ending accomplishments of fighters,” said the LeT spokesman.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 3:21:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/two-militants-four-civilians-killed-in-shopian-firing-incident/article22937162.ece

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