Shopian operation ends as militants manage to escape

The forces fired live ammunition, pellets and tear gas, resulting in the death of a protester. PTI File Photo

Security forces on Thursday morning called off the search operation in south Kashmir’s Shopian district after militants who were hiding escaped taking advantage of stone pelting and darkness. 

The operation was launched in Turkwangam village of Shopian on Wednesday afternoon following a tip-off about the presence of militants, a police officer said and added that militants opened fire on the forces, triggering a brief gunfight.

Sources said at least three militants, including senior Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Zeenat-ul-Islam, are believed to have escaped after the initial exchange of firing, which left a subedar-major injured. He was shifted to the army’s 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar.

As soon as the news of the encounter spread, youth took to the streets and clashed with security forces to disrupt the anti-insurgency operation. The forces fired live ammunition, pellets and tear gas, resulting in the death of a youth, Umar Kumar, and injuries to several others.

As the youth continued to clash with the forces, two more trapped militants managed to escape from the cordoned off area, with the support of locals, said a source. But the forces continued to surround the village until the early hours of Thursday when the operation was called off.

Zeenat-ul-Islam, from Sugan village of the district, has been active in the militant ranks since early 2015. He had escaped during a cordon-and-search operation near his native village at Dragad-Sugan on April 1 along with four of his associates in which seven Hizbul militants were killed.

Protests and stone pelting by locals near encounter sites to help militants escape have become a routine affair in Kashmir since the last two years. At least nine of the 41 people killed in violent incidents across the Valley in April were civilians shot down under such circumstances.

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Shopian operation ends as militants manage to escape

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