Six militants of Lashker-e-Toiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen outfits, including Abass Sheikh, a terrorist involved in the killing of Lt Omar Fayaz, and a soldier were killed in a fierce encounter between security forces and ultras in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Sunday.
A civilian was killed, and several others injured during subsequent clashes between the security forces and protesters near the encounter site.
Reports said the encounter started late on Saturday night and went on till Sunday morning. It started when the army’s 34-Rashtriya Rifles, paramilitary CRPF and special operation group (SOG) of the J&K Police launched a cordon-and-search-operation (CASO) in Batagund village of Kapran in Shopian, over a tip-off.
"As the cordon tightened, the militants fired at the forces, triggering a gunfight. In the initial firing, four militants were killed,” a police officer said, adding that two more militants, who escaped from the house where they were trapped, were killed later.
He said an army soldier of 162 Battalion Territorial Army, identified as Nazir Ahmad, was killed in the encounter. The slain, he said, was a resident of Kulgam district.
The police identified the slain militants as Mushtaq Ahmad Mir alias Hammad alias Musha, Mohammad Abass Sheikh, Umar Majeed Ganaie alias Maaz alias Abu Hanzalla, Mohammad Waseem Wagay alias Saifullah, Khalid Farooq Malik alias Rafi alias Talha.
"From the material evidence collected, one militant is learnt to be a foreigner from Pakistan. It was a combined group of Hizbul and LeT," a police spokesman said.
A picture of militant Abu Hanzalla seated at a pavilion in the city centre, (Lal Chowk’s Clock Tower) had gone viral on social media last week. Hanzall, according to the police, was the district commander of Hizbul for Kulgam and was involved in several killings of policemen and civilians. "He was also involved in Pombai bank attack, in which four policemen and two bank guards lost their lives,” the spokesman said.
Abass Sheikh was wanted for killing of young officer trainee Lt Omar Fayaz, advocate Imtiyaz Ahmad Khan and four personal security officers of Shopian deputy superintendent of police, and many other civilian killings in the area. Fayaz was abducted by the militants from a wedding function. They later killed him.
Reports said as soon as the news of gunfight spread in the area, youth took to streets in Batagund and pelted stones at the security forces, who retaliated by firing pellets and ammunition, leaving at least seven people wounded.
One of the injured, Noman Ashraf Bhat, who was hit by a bullet, was shifted to the district hospital in Kulgam, where he was declared dead on arrival.
This was the third anti-militancy operation in south Kashmir since Tuesday. So far, 16 militants and two soldiers have been killed in three encounters.
On Friday, six militants belonging to LeT and Hizbul were killed in Anantnag district. The slain militants included LeT commander Azad Malik, the prime accused in the murder of veteran journalist Shujaat Bukhari earlier this year.
On Tuesday, four Hizbul militants and a paratrooper from the army were killed in an encounter in Nadigam village of Shopian.