Kashmir: Militant groups offer 'gun salutes' to their fallen comrades

Kashmir: Militant groups offer 'gun salutes' to their fallen comrades
In a brazen display which shows how the Valley has been pushed back to the turmoil days of the '90's, groups of militants appeared in south Kashmir on Saturday to offer 'gun salutes' to their fallen comrades.

Eyewitnesses said at least five militants of both Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen appeared in the funeral of slain commander Junaid Mattoo in Khudwani village of Anantnag in South Kashmir and offered a 'gun salute'  with young men and women rejoicing as pro-freedom and anti-India slogans filled the air.

They said mourners jostled to touch the faces of militants as they fired in the air. Mattoo was killed along with two associates in an encounter with security forces in neighbouring Arwani village on Friday. Such was the rush of the mourners that eight rounds of funeral prayers were held for Mattoo.

Similar reports were also received from Heff village of Shopian district where at least ten militants appeared at the funeral of slain LeT militant Nasir Wani and offered 'gun salute.' "First, two militants appeared at the funeral which was attended by thousands of people. They touched the face of Nasir Wani and fired several shots in the air. Later, more militants appeared to join the funeral prayers and gun salute,” said an eyewitness.

With graph of militancy going up significantly and the space for mainstream politics shrinking swiftly, militants in the sheer audacity of parading themselves in front of the cameras of media persons has brought back memories of the early 1990s when this used to be a common sight.

Today's incidents are not the first time such scenes have unfolded in the last one and half years. The militants have managed to do this multiple times, especially in southern districts of Pulwama, Shopian, and Kulgam.

Sources in the security agencies term it a disturbing development, as in the early 1990s, suspicion of militants presence at funerals had led to security forces opening fire that resulted into many casualties. "Due to widespread support for militants these days, it is difficult to make out who is a ultras and who is not," a police officer said.

The other problem for security forces, he said, has been the growing crowds at the funerals of slain militants which not only indicates a groundswell for separatism, they often try to provide cover for holed up ultras during encounters.

On Friday when Matoo and his two associates were trapped in Arwani village, hundreds of people, especially youth, tried to march towards the encounter site to help them escape the security cordon. In the retaliatory action by forces, two young protesters were killed while more than two dozen were injured.
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