Cop, 2 ultras killed in 15-hr encounter

Both terrorists Hizbul operatives; one a Pakistani national

Cop, 2 ultras killed in 15-hr encounter

A policeman and two Hizbul Mujahideen militants were killed, while four security forces personnel, including a major, were injured in a 15-hour encounter in south Kashmir on Sunday.

The encounter began in Tral area on Saturday evening after security forces received information that a group of militants were hiding in Hafoo Nazneepora, 38 km from here.

As the security forces closed in on the hiding militants, the terrorists opened indiscriminate fire, killing a police constable and injuring four personnel, including army Major Rishi of 42 Rashtriya Rifles, a senior police official said.

The slain constable has been identified as Manzoor Ahmed Niak. The forces included troops from the 42 RR, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. Militants kept firing intermittently till Sunday morning, even though the house which they had used as a fortified bunker was demolished by the army using IEDs, the official said.

While one militant was killed on Saturday night, the other was neutralised on Sunday morning.

The official identified the militants as Aqib Maulvi from Tral, a commander of the Hizbul outfit, and Saif-ul-lah alias Osama, a Pakistani.

Maulvi was a close associate of Burhan Wani, the poster boy of Hizbul, whose killing in July last year had triggered a wave of protests in the Valley. At least 90 people were killed and over 12,000 injured in the subsequent unrest.

A holed-up Maulvi had called up his father in the early hours and bid his final goodbye.

Sources said the police had specific inputs about the presence of top Hizbul commander Sabzar Ahmed Bhat in the area when the encounter started. However, as locals resorted to stone-pelting protests to chase away the security personnel from the encounter site, Bhat managed to escape taking advantage of the darkness, they said. During the clashes, an INSAS rifle was snatched from a CRPF jawan.

Protests at encounter sites have become a major problem for security forces in the recent months, forcing Army Chief Bipin Rawat to issue a stern warning to civilians obstructing operations.

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