Pulwama: Sameer Tiger, one of the top militants of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and a close associate of the outfit’s commander Riaz Naikoo, was killed along with a fellow militant, Aqib Khan, in a gunfight with government forces here in Drubgam village of Pulwama district, on Monday.
A young civilian, Shahid Ahmad of Arihal Pulwama, was shot dead and 20 others were taken to Pulwama district hospital, most of them with bullet injuries, after government forces opened fire at youths hurling stones at them near the site of the gunfight. Twelve of the injured were referred to Srinagar hospitals for specialised treatment.
Army Major Rohit Shukla and another soldier were critically injured during the gunfight with the militants. They are undergoing treatment at army’s base hospital in Srinagar.
“They are in critical condition,” an army officer told Kashmir Reader.
The gunfight was triggered early Monday morning in Drubgam, the native village of Sameer Ahmad Bhat alias Tiger, following a cordon and search operation by government forces.
A senior police official from the area told Kashmir Reader that the area was cordoned off in the wee hours of Monday, following “credible inputs regarding presence of militants in the area”.
“At about 9am, the militants opened fire from a residential house in which they were trapped, in a bid to make their escape,” the police official said.
He said that the two army men were injured in this initial burst of fire.
“The fire was retaliated and in the process the militants were restricted to a position of no escape. Two to three houses were zeroed in on and the cordon was made watertight,” the official said.
The gunfight, sources said, continued for several hours and concluded with the killing of the two militants.
“The forces used heavy explosives, reducing to rubble at least two residential houses in the area,” sources said.
Director General of Police SP Vaid confirmed the killing of Tiger and Aqib Khan. He was of the opinion that Tiger’s killing should bring “peace” to the area.
“He was involved in a number of civilian killings. His killing should bring peace to the area,” Vaid said.
Sameer Tiger was a wanted militant and had been active since 2016. He was a prominent face of the Hizb and his pictures kept surfacing on social media every now and then.
Police have maintained that Tiger was an “Over Ground Worker” and a “stone-pelter” before he joined militant ranks.
The police have also accused Tiger of many militant attacks and civilian killings in their press release.
The other slain militant, Aqib Khan, son of Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, of Rajpora had joined militant ranks in July 2017.
Bodies of both the militants were handed over to the next of kin after completion of medico-legal formalities by the police.
As per sources, at least 5 militants appeared in Drubgam village soon after Tiger’s body reached his home. The militants offered several rounds of gun salute to their fallen associate, sources said, while people in thousands were in attendance.
Civilian killing and the injured:
As soon as the news of the encounter reached people, thousands started marching towards the encounter site, despite restrictions and road blocks laid by government forces. People, including women, marched towards the site of the encounter, mostly on foot, in an attempt to rescue the militants.
As the number of civilians around the encounter site kept swelling and the stone-throwing got intense, the government forces opened fire to disperse them.
Pellets were also fired at the protesting people, though the police maintained that the civilian was killed and others were injured in “cross firing”.
Medical Superintendent of Pulwama District Hospital, Dr Rasheed Parra, told Kashmir Reader that 21 injured were brought to the hospital.
“One was brought dead. We tried our best to revive him but couldn’t,” he said. “Most of the injured had bullet injuries. We have referred 12 of the injured to different Srinagar hospitals and the rest are under treatment here,” Parra said.
Hundreds thronged Pulwama District Hospital to offer blood for the injured. “We have so far collected 15 pints of blood and you can see that dozens are waiting outside to offer more if needed,” a hospital employee told Kashmir Reader.
The killed civilian was buried at his native village Arihal after hundreds attended his funeral.