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Militants kill policeman and escape in Kashmir’s Bandipora

This is the second militant attack in Bandipora this month. On October 11, two Indian Air Force commandos training with the army and two militants were killed.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2017 18:25 IST
Ashiq Hussain, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Encounter,Militants,Security forces
An encounter broke out between militants and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Bandipora.(ANI Photo)

Militants shot dead a 35-year-old policeman and escaped after a gunfight with security forces in north Kashmir’s Bandipora on Sunday.

This was first militant attack after the central government appointed an emissary on October 23 to start peace talks in the state fighting a three-decade-long separatist insurgency.

Bandipora police superintendent Sheikh Zulfikar said constable Zaheer Abbas Khan died of grave bullet wounds in the attack. He was taken to Srinagar for treatment but couldn’t be saved.

A resident of Poonch, Khan was a member of the Jammu and Kashmir police’s special operations group. He’s survived by his aged parents, wife and three children — 10-year-old Mehtab Zaheer, Manik Ahmad and Sumaira Zaheer, the younger two aged eight and five.

The gunfight started after a team of policemen accompanied by army and Central Reserve Police Force troopers searched an area called Mir Mohalla in Bandipora’s Hajin following information about two militants hiding there.

The militants fired and cut down Khan when the security team approached a house around 8am. The team engaged the militants holed out in the house till 11.30am but they managed to escape.

“No militant was killed … the two escaped probably,” officer Zulfikar said.

According to reports coming from the area, residents protested against the military operation and threw stones at the team. The militants allegedly used the commotion as cover to break out of the security cordon.

But Zulfikar dismissed such a possibility, saying “only a few boys” were protesting. “The protests were not the reason … The area was congested,” he said.

A hunt is launched to track the militants.

This is the second attack in Bandipora this month. On October 11, two Indian Air Force commandos training with the army and an equal number of militants were killed.

The Kashmir Valley has been on the edge since the killing of young Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in June last year, which triggered widespread public unrest and left more than 100 people dead.

The security forces too adopted a hard stand against militants, gunning down 160 of them this year.

Army chief General Bipin Rawat warned that the appointment of an interlocutor for dialogue to solve the festering Kashmir crisis won’t have any bearing on the military offensive against insurgents.

Bandipora superintendent of police Sheikh Zulfikar said a policeman of the special operations group (SOG), Zaheer Abbas was seriously wounded and was shifted to Srinagar. “He succumbed to his injuries,” he said.

The official said that Abbas, 35, was survived by his wife and two small children.

In a rare occurrence in Kashmir these days, the militants managed to escape from the cordon. Almost all recent encounters have led to the elimination of militants after the security forces drew up a hit list this summer.

“No militant has been killed in the encounter. Most probably the two have escaped,” Zulfikar said.

Local reports said that there were some protests and stone pelting on security forces which possibly helped the militants escape. “The protests were not the reason for their escape as there were only few boys. The area was congested,” Zulfikar said.

This is the second encounter in Bandipora’s Hajin this month. On October 11, two Indian Air Force commandos, training with the army, and two militants were killed in a gunfight.

Sunday’s firefight started after a joint party of police, the army and the Central Reserve Police Force cordoned off the Mir Mohalla area of Hajin and launched a search after being tipped off about the presence of militants. As the security personnel approached a house, militants hiding inside opened fire. “The security forces started the search at around 6.25 am and the militants opened fire from a house at around 8 am,” an official at the Bandipora police control room said.

The entire operation lasted around five hours with the encounter ending at 11.30 am.

The Centre had on October 23 named former Intelligence Bureau chief, Dineshwar Sharma, to talk to all stakeholders to find a solution to the 30-year-old Kashmir insurgency.

Army chief General Bipin Rawat had said the appointment of the interlocutor would have no bearing on his force’s operations in the Valley, where 160 militants have been killed this year.

The government has been pursuing a tough line in Kashmir after violent street protests left more 100 people dead over the past year.

Bandipora superintendent of police Sheikh Zulfikar said a policeman of the special operations group was wounded and was shifted to Srinagar. Police refused to confirm reports of death of a policeman and a militant, saying the gun battle was still on.

This is the second such exchange in Bandipora’s Hajin this month. On October 11, two Indian Air Force commandos, training with the army, and two militants were killed in an intense gunfight.

The Sunday’s firefight started after a joint party of police, the army and the Central Reserve Police Force cordoned off the Mir Mohalla area of Hajin and launched a search after being tipped off about the presence of militants.

As the joint team approached a house, militants hiding inside opened fire. “The security forces started the search at around 6.25am and the militants opened fire from a house at around 8am,” an official manning the Bandipora police control room said.

The Centre had on October 23 named a former Intelligence Bureau chief, Dineshwar Sharma, to talk to all stakeholders to find a solution to the 30-year-old Kashmir insurgency.

Army chief Bipin Rawat had said the appointment of the interlocutor would have no bearing on his force’s operations in the Valley, where 160 militants have been killed this year.

The government has been pursuing a tough line in Kashmir where violent street protests left more 100 people dead over the past year.

First Published: Oct 29, 2017 09:09 IST