Shopian gunfight: Protests rage in Kashmir after Army kills six, including 2 Lashkar militants
More than a dozen protests erupted across Kashmir on Monday, with government forces firing tear gas and demonstrators hurling rocks as tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets after the army killed four civilians and two suspected militants.
In south Kashmir, hundreds attended the funeral of a slain Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander despite authorities restricting people’s movement across the Valley.
While security forces claim that all those killed were militants or their over-ground workers, separatist leaders and local residents alleged that four of them were civilians.
“The first terrorist was from LeT, the second terrorist found this morning was from LeT too. Both of them are Class B terrorists,” said DS Negi, Commandant of 12 Rashtriya Rifles.
The trouble began late Sunday night, when officials say a car refused to stop at a checkpoint outside a Shopian military base and militants inside fired at the soldiers.
Indian army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said a rebel and three civilians were killed when soldiers fired back. A fourth civilian’s body was recovered from a nearby car, officials said, and the body of another rebel was found a few kilometers (miles) away. Authorities said he’d been injured in the shooting and died later.
Four persons were confirmed dead on Sunday night and two more bodies were recovered on Monday morning, police said.
While the police have not identified the three youths killed on Sunday, locals identified them as Suhail Ahmad Wagay , Nawaz Ahmad Wagay and Shahid Khan.
Police said they recovered the bullet-ridden body of LeT militant Ashiq Hussain Bhat at Saidpora area in Shopian, about 6 km from the firing spot. He was missing since November 13, 2017.
“Preliminary investigation suggests that Bhat’s death was part of Sunday’s gunfight in Pahnoo village. Further investigation is on,” a police officer said.
The body of a civilian, Gowhar Ahmad Lone, 24, was found on Monday morning, some 250 metres away from the gunfight site.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said she was “deeply distressed by more deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire in Shopian” and expressed her “heartfelt condolences to the deceased’s families”.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik called for a valley-wide protest shutdown against the killings.
Fearing street protests, the authorities imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar city and south Kashmir region. Internet connectivity in south Kashmir was suspended while its speed was curbed at other places in the Valley.
Officials also ordered schools closed Monday and suspended rail service in the region.
The State Public Service Commission ordered the cancellation of Monday’s civil services exams in the state. All university and school board exams scheduled on Monday were postponed.
People thronged Kapran village of Shopian to participate in the funeral of Lashkar commander Ashiq Hussain Bhat. Half a dozen militants were also seen offering the congregational Nimaz-e-Janaza of the slain commander. The militants then fired in the air to honour their dead colleague.
Protests also broke out in neighbouring Anantnag and Pulwama districts, north Kashmir’s Bandipora district and Badgam in central Kashmir where youths clashed with the security forces.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Malik was arrested from Srinagar on Monday during a protest march against the killings.
Police intercepted the Malik-led protest march and took the separatist leader and some of his supporters into custody.
Speaking to media persons, Malik said: “It is the MLAs of the state who are responsible for the killings of these civilians. The Army has been given a free hand as no effort has been made by the so-called law makers of the state to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).”