Three alleged militants, holed up in a multi-storey building, were killed in a 17-hour long operation on the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday. However, the families of the “militants” claimed they were “never involved in militancy” and were “innocent civilians”.
“For many days, intelligence inputs were pouring in about the movement of militants on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. We developed leads on Tuesday about militants hiding in a house in Lawaypora in the HMT area. The three militants, killed in the operation, were planning a big strike on the highway to gain publicity,” General Officer Commanding (GoC), Kilo Force, H.S. Sahi, said.
The operation, which was halted on Tuesday night, resumed in the morning of Wednesday and concluded by 11:30 a.m. with the killing of the ‘militants’. The security forces used explosives to flush them out.
A police spokesman said repeated announcements were made to the hiding terrorists to lay down their illegal weapons and surrender. Police sources said one “recent recruit” intended to surrender but other two “kept firing”.
“One AK 47 rifle, two pistols and ammunition, besides other incriminating material, were recovered from them. The slain militants’’ identities have been established as Ajaz Maqbool Ganie, Ather Mushtaq from Pulwama and Zubair Lone from Shopian,” the spokesman said.
Families dispute official version
Holding a demonstration outside the Police Control Room (PCR) in Srinagar, where the bodies were kept, the families said two slain youths “were innocent” and left their homes on Wednesday.
The family members of Athar and Junaid claimed that they were heading “to get admission in a tuition centre for Class 12th”.
“Our sons were not militants. They were killed in a staged encounter. Their lives were snuffed out for no reason. They were among us till yesterday. Why were they killed?,” the family members said.
Police sources confirmed to The Hindu that the youths killed “were not listed militants” and were never “reported missing by the family”, as is the norm about the families whose wards join militancy.
“It’s true that their names aren’t mentioned in our list of terrorists, but two of them are hardcore associates of terrorists. One of them is a relative of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Rayees Kachroo, who was killed in 2017. The third might have joined very recently,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar told The Hindu.
He said many a time parents don’t have any idea about activities of such youths. “Several over ground workers after committing grenade attacks and pistol shooting stay with family as a normal civilian. The police are investigating the case and will come to a conclusion soon,” he stated.
Former Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, in a tweet, said, “It’s worrying that in the past few months, after the Shopian fake encounter, other families too in J&K have alleged that their sons were innocent and killed in a staged encounter. The authorities need to come clean on this.”
National Conference spokesman Sarah Shah demanded an “impartial investigation”.
“It is for the government now to clear the ambiguity. We have been hearing from the government that there would be zero tolerance to human rights violations, but on the ground such claims stand debunked in the wake of such killings. We demand a thorough inquiry,” Ms. Shah said.
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