Former militants in Sopore town of Kashmir’s Baramulla district are going into hiding as the mystery about who killed six men in less than a month continues.
Sopore, around 50km north of Srinagar, has been tense after the May 25 attack on a BSNL office left one person dead. The town shut down on Tuesday and protesters threw stones. On Wednesday, the town will shut down again. That would be fifth consecutive day of unrest, to be followed by a separatist-supported protest march on Friday.
The mystery surrounding the killings is fuelled by police claims and counter claims by the militant conglomerate United Jehad Council (UJC) and both sides accusing each other.
Children of slain ex-militant Ijaz Ahmad Reshi at their residence in Mudji village of Sopore, some 65km from Srinagar. (Waseem Andrabi/ HT Photo)
The police, which estimate there are some 15,000-18,000 former and surrendered militants in the Valley, have blamed the Hizbul Mujahideen’s breakaway commanders in Sopore for the attacks. The militant outfit blames security agencies of fomenting trouble.
The Hizbul Mujahideen and the Laskar-e-Toiba, in separate statements on Monday night, pledged to avenge the killings and blamed defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s statement of “terrorist killing terrorist” for the violence.
A relative of slain ex-militant Ijaz Ahmad Reshi reads a newspaper at their residence in Mudji village of Sopore.(Waseem Andrabi/ HT Photo)
The police in Sopore put up posters announcing bounties of Rs 10 lakh each for the capture of Hizbul Mujahideen militants Imtiyaz Ahmad Kandroo and Abdul Qayoom Najar on Tuesday but young men swiftly removed them. "It is the same group which tried to disrupt mobile towers," said Gareeb Das, deputy inspector general of police, north Kashmir, when asked who was behind the killings.
Ghulam Hassan Dar, 50, was killed on May 26 for apparently hosting a mobile tower. He was a former member of militant group Al-Barq and his family says they don’t know who to blame for his murder.
Why violence in Sopore?
Sopore in Baramulla district has been springboard of militancy since the 1990s. The army and the BSF recaptured the town from militants in early '90s in a major offensive which left 55 civilians dead and 250 shops and 50 homes gutted.
Sopore remains a bastion of Jamaat and hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani who hails from the Dooru area and draws ideologically-driven ranks from there.
The town strategically connects the districts of Kupwara, Bandipora and Srinagar, and hence militants are keen on keeping the insurgency pot boiling. More than 30 fresh recruits are suspected to have joined the Hizb in recent times.