5 militants including professor gunned down in Kashmir; 5 civilians killed in clashes
Five militants including an assistant professor of Kashmir University and a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander were killed early on Sunday in a police and military operation in Kashmir’s Shopian, sparking protests from locals in which five civilians were killed and 25 were injured during clashes with security forces.
The slain militants were identified as Kashmir university sociology professor Mohammad Rafi, Hizbul commander Saddam Padder, and three others, Adil, Bilal Mohan and Touseef.
Padder was among the 10 militants who had posed with then-HM commander Burhan Wani in a picture that went viral on social media and is said to have gave traction to militancy in Kashmir. With Padder’s death, all the militants in that photo have now been killed by security forces, Shopian’s senior superintendent of police Shalindra Mishra said, with the exception of Tariq Pandit, who had surrendered in May 2016.
Wani’s killing in July 2016 had sparked one of the most intense periods of tension in Kashmir in nearly two decades, leading to more than 100 deaths in violent protests over the year.
Padder, a school drop-out in his twenties, was a Category A-plus militant with a Rs 10 lakh bounty on his head.
Early on Sunday morning, army, police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) cordoned Badigam, a village in Shopian, after intelligence inputs about the presence of militants.
Police said that the hiding militants opened fire, triggering the encounter, in which a policeman and a soldier were wounded.
Assistant professor Rafi, who was reported missing on Friday, had joined the militants just 36 hours before the encounter, police said.
Police said that Rafi, a resident of Ganderbal in central Kashmir, had called his parents on Friday morning, telling them that he was with the militants. “The family told us, and we asked his parents to ask him to surrender. By then, he had switched off his phone. (During the encounter), we made multiple efforts for his surrender, but in vain. It appears others did not allow him to come out,” said inspector general of police, SP Pani.
“The loss of 5 innocent civilians in Shopian serves as a grim reminder that violence is no solution to the issues that plague us. We all must unite & pull J&K out of this endless nightmare by engaging in sustained & meaningful dialogue,” Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted after the incident.
A video has surfaced on social media in which SSP Mishra is seen urging the militants to surrender. “Stop the firing and come out. For God’s sake, nothing will come out of this. Come out. I am SSP Shopian speaking,” the officer is heard saying on the public address system. Then there is a sudden burst of fire as Mishra ends his monologue. The police confirmed the veracity of the video.
During and after the Shopian encounter, scores of young Kashmiris clashed with the forces. According to local reports, the forces retaliated by firing bullets in some places.
Director general of police, SP Vaid told HT that one civilian died during protests near the encounter site in Badigam, while four were killed as security forces were leaving the area. “There were road blocks and stone pelting while the de-induction of the forces,” he said.
Of the five, three of the dead were from Pulwama district and one each from Kulgam and Anantnag districts.
Separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq termed the killings of civilians as “carnage” and called for a peaceful protest on Monday.
“Words fail to express the pain of the tragedy unfolding in #Shopian as the count of the brutally killed by Indian forces keeps rising! Tomorrow as the “Durbar”of our killers opens in Srinagar, leadership and people from all walks, traders, lawyers,students,employees and others will move towards civil secretariat and will sit in a peaceful dharna till the daily carnage is not stopped .The protest strike will continue,” Farooq tweeted.
Opposition leader Omar Abdullah said: “When educated, gainfully employed young men choose the path of militancy – it should serve as a wake-up call for those who have turned a deaf ear towards repeated pleas for initiation of dialogue with all stakeholders to find a solution to this quagmire.”