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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

Army soldier, separatist, 4 Hizb men killed in day of violence in Kashmir

Gunmen were attacked Hafizullah Mir, the third separatist killed in the recent times, in Anantnag; encounter raged in Shopian as well.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2018 23:54 IST
Ashiq Hussain and Mir Ehsan
Ashiq Hussain and Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
People inspect a damaged house where four Hizbul Mujahideen militants and a soldier were killed during an encounter, at Shopian district of South Kashmir on November 20.
People inspect a damaged house where four Hizbul Mujahideen militants and a soldier were killed during an encounter, at Shopian district of South Kashmir on November 20.(PTI Photo)

Unidentified gunmen killed an office-bearer of Kashmiri separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Tuesday, the same day that four militants and a soldier died in a shootout in Shopian in the backdrop of the abduction of seven civilians and the murder of two of them in the district in a week’s time.

TeH district president Hafizullah Mir, in his late 40s, is the third separatist activist to have been killed in the past two and a half months. Jammu and Kashmir Muslim League (J&KML) activist Tariq Ahmad Ganaie, 50, was shot dead in South Kashmir’s Shopian district on October 11. J&KML is a constituent of Geelani’s faction of the separatist amalgam, Hurriyat Conference. Another Geelani aide, Hakim-ur-Rehman, was killed in North Kashmir’s Bomia a month earlier on September 8.

Police have blamed militants for the killings while separatists and the militant leadership have held “government agencies” responsible for them.

The Separatist Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), which comprises Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Yasin Malik, called for a shutdown on Thursday and protests on Friday against Mir’s killing.

A police statement said Mir was killed after unidentified militants barged into his residence at Budooda Achabal in Anantnag and fired indiscriminately. “In this incident, Hafizullah (Mir) sustained critical gunshot wounds and was evacuated to a nearby hospital where he succumbed.”

The statement said Mir’s widow was wounded in the attack and was undergoing treatment at a local hospital. “Police has registered a case under relevant sections of the law and initiated an investigation in the matter.”

JRL said Mir had played a “pivotal role” to sustain “the 2016 uprising” following Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing. He was in jail for two years and was released recently.

“Authorities tried very hard to break his will and threatened him with dire consequences if he did not toe their line. When they failed to bow him down, they decided to eliminate him physically,’’ JRL alleged in a statement. “For the last couple of months, he (had been) receiving suspicious phone calls, and even was threatened and harassed, but this brave son of the soil ignored all these threats.”

Syed Salahuddin, the chief of Kashmir’s biggest indigenous militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, condemned Mir’s killing. He blamed “Indian agencies” and said they had started “target killings of pro-freedom leadership, which in itself is the acceptance of India’s failure in Kashmir.”

Meanwhile, four Hizbul Mujahideen militants and a soldier were killed in an encounter that took place after a joint team of the state police, and the army’s 34 Rashtriya Rifles and 23 Para Commandos launched a cordon and search operation in Shopian’s Nadimarg village in the early hours of Tuesday after receiving “specific inputs about militant presence” in the area, defence spokesman Rajesh Kalia said.

The search team was fired upon by the militants who were in hiding, triggering the gunbattle, police officials said. Police said the slain militants were residents of Kashmir. Senior superintendent of police Shopian Sandeep Choudhary said they were affiliated with the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group. The slain soldier was identified as Para Commando Lance Havaldar Vijay Kumar, a resident of Haryana. Two other security personnel were injured in the encounter, police said.

Police said the slain militants were involved in attacks on security establishments. Police said people took to the streets once news of the encounter spread, prompting defence personnel to use tear gas and pellets to disperse the crowd. Four people were injured in the clashes between protesters and defence personnel, police officials said on condition of anonymity.