Suspicion around the killing of the ‘oldest militant’ is growing in Kashmir as the police on Thursday denied being part of the operation where the army claimed to have killed the militant. The ‘septuagenarian militant’s’ identity remains unidentified with the police.
On Wednesday, the army claimed to have killed an old militant early in the morning. “A joint party of the army’s 6 Rastriya Rifles and the police noticed suspicious movement of militants in Rainawari forest area near Pahaldaji Village of Handwara,” said the army spokesman.
He added the patrol party came under heavy fire from the militant after he was challenged. “The joint team returned the fire resulting in death of the lone militant,” the spokesman said.
The police, however, denied being physically present in the operation. “We do share information with each other as a matter of strategy. And do joint operation but yesterday we were not physically part of the operation,” said SP Handwara Rafiq Vakil.
The army claimed to have recovered one AK rifle, four magazines, and 67 rounds of ammunitions from the encounter site. It did not clarify if there were more militants trapped when the encounter was on.
Vakil said there is an increased movement of the militants in Handwara, particularly in Hafruda, Wadvan, Bovan and Wilgam. “Our strategy is to stop militants from coming down from the forest areas to plains. To do that the army has installed strategic nakas (barriers) in the area,” said Vakil.
Police today pasted the picture of the killed ‘militant’ across the twin police districts of Kupwara and Handwara. “So far we have not been able to identify the slain,” said the SP Handwara.
From the picture, the ‘militant’ seems above 70 years and wears typical Gujjar and Bakkerwal turban and sports typical Pahari beard.
The police do not rule out the possibility of the slain working as a guide. “There are elderly Gujjars who work as a guide. There is one 65-year-old guide named Gaffar Sheikh, who we are searching,” said Vakil adding there were no reports of any septuagenarian joining any militant ranks.
“Usually maximum active militants’ age is between 40 to 45,” he added.
The police yesterday handed over the body to a local Auqaf Committee for the burial. The body was later laid to rest late in the evening.