One killed in Kashmir protests after killing of Burhan successor Sabzar Bhat
One civilian was killed and several others were injured in Kashmir on Saturday after the killing of a top rebel commander sparked protests across the valley, officials said.
Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, believed to be the successor of the slain militant Burhan Wani, and one of his associate were killed in an overnight raid at a hideout in Tral.
The government cut off mobile internet as a precautionary measure as the protests spread to capital Srinagar where people rushed to stock fuel fearing prolonged violence, similar to the months-long protests that followed the killing Wani last year.
Bhat’s death was confirmed hours after the army killed six suspected militants who were allegedly trying to infiltrate into the valley from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The news of his death triggered violent protests in Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag, Sopore, Kupwara and Srinagar, and large of the valley shut down.
Witnesses said a young man was killed and several other people were injured after forces fired on protesters near the site where Bhat was killed. Police chief SP Vaid said the man was killed in crossfire.
Reporters saw smoke billowing from a burnt out, two-storyed house where the two militants were killed. One jawan was seen carrying what appeared to be two assault rifles of the slain militants.
Security forces were searching the area for at least one more body, police said.
A statement from the army’s Northern Command said the encounters were a result of operations by security forces to “defeat desperate attempts by Pak and Pak-sponsored agents to spread terror in the state in the run up to the holy month of Ramzan”.
The army said in the past 24 hours at least 10 militants have been killed including two members of Pakistan’s rogue border action team (BAT) gunned down.
Authorities suspended mobile internet services on Saturday afternoon, just a day after lifting a monthlong ban on 22 social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter.
The social media ban on April 26 came after videos depicting the alleged abuse of Kashmiris by Indian forces fueled widespread protests.
Kashmir has been on the boil since the killing of Wani, a poster-boy of homegrown militancy in the valley, deepened anti-India sentiments. Nearly 100 people were killed in the street protests in the months of protests. Hundreds were blinded or maimed by pellets fired by forces.
After Wani’s death, the Hizbul Mujahideen named one Mehmood Gaznavi as the new commander in Kashmir. While there was no information available on Ghaznavi, it was believed his real name was Sabzar Ahmed Bhat.
(With agency inputs)