Herald: Seven civilians among 11 killed in Kashmir encounter

Seven civilians among 11 killed in Kashmir encounter

16 Dec 2018 06:41am IST
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16 Dec 2018 06:41am IST
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The soldiers were taken by surprise as people started marching towards the encounter site from all directions with some of them trying to seize their weapons

PTI, SRINAGAR: Seven civilians died Saturday when security forces opened fire at an unruly mob that thronged the site of an encounter in south Kashmir's Pulwama district in which three terrorists and an army man were killed, police said.

The militants killed included army deserter Zahoor Ahmad Thoker, who belonged to Simoo village where the gunfight took place.

The Army laid siege around an isolated house in the middle of an orchard following an intelligence input about the presence of the militants.

After the initial contact with the militants, the security forces completed the operation in 90 minutes, killing all three.

The soldiers were taken by surprise as people started marching towards the encounter site from all directions with some of them trying to seize their weapons, police said.

A police spokesman said while the operation was going on, security forces had to resort to firing at the crowd that “came dangerously close from different parts to the encounter site".

Those injured in the firing were rushed to hospital, where seven civilians "unfortunately" succumbed to their injuries, the spokesman said.

Unconfirmed reports put the number of civilians killed at eight.

Among those killed was a young Kashmiri man, who had recently travelled back to his hometown with his Indonesian wife and a three-month baby. The youth was also a part of the stone-throwing mob, police said.

About five more people have bullet injuries. “Others who were admitted in the hospital are stated to be stable," the spokesman said.

Police again issued a general advisory, asking people to stay away from the encounter site and said there was significant danger to life there.

Political parties in Kashmir condemned the killings, saying Governor Satya Pal Malik-led administration has "failed" to secure people's lives.

Authorities suspended mobile internet services in most parts of Kashmir, including Srinagar, to prevent escalation in tension following the deaths.

Thoker had gone missing from an Army unit in north Kashmir's Baramulla district in July last year. He had decamped with his service rifle and three magazines, and joined the militant ranks.

Security forces said Thoker was involved in several killings in Pulwama district, including the abduction and murder of Rifleman Aurangzeb of 44 Rashtriya Rifles.

Aurangzeb was on his way back home on June 14 to celebrate Eid when terrorists abducted him.

Hours later, his bullet-riddled body was found at Gussu village, about 10 km from Kalampora in Pulwama district.

The identities of two other militants killed in Saturday's encounter were being ascertained.

"No probe enough to bring back the dead innocent civilians," Peoples Democratic Party president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.

South Kashmir has been reeling under fear for the last 6 months. Is this what was expected from Gov rule?" she said, adding "no country can win a war by killing its own people."

National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah questioned the way the operation was carried out.

"Any way you look at it this was a badly executed encounter. Protests around encounter sites are now the norm not the exception. Why are we unable to learn how to handle them better? "he tweeted.

"Another blood soaked weekend in Kashmir," he said, tallying the deaths of protesters, militants and the jawan.

The administration of Governor Malik has one task and one task only - to focus on the security of the people of JK and restore peace to a troubled valley. Sadly it appears that's the only thing the administration is not doing," he tweeted.

Separatist-turned-politician and former minister Sajad Lone said the administration needs to "seriously evaluate" the costs of such anti-militancy operations.

"If you end up killing 7 civilians in order to kill 3 militants. It is time for heads to roll. We can't afford a state of impunity," he tweeted.

He expressed hope that the administration will abandon "its Rambo mindset".

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) president G A Mir described the killings as "very unfortunate, sad and highly condemnable".

Calling for an end to bloodshed, Mir said “unabated killings of innocent civilians” have been detrimental to peace initiatives begun from time to time.

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