By ISHFAQ RESHI
Budgam: Three militants belonging to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen were killed in a night-long encounter in Radbugh area of district Budgam. The half-burnt bodies of the militants were recovered on Wednesday morning.
Police sources said that all three trapped militants were killed by the end of the night. The house from which they were fighting was reduced to ashes after it was burnt using gunpowder to force the militants to come out, or be burnt alive.
The slain militants were identified as Tafeezul-Islam, popularly known as Javid Sheikh, resident of Churpora Narbal; Sajad Ahmad Gilkar of Nowhatta; and Aaquib Gul of Goripora Hyderpora.
Police sources said that the gunfight began Tuesday night after the army and SOG of police cordoned off Radbugh village in Magam area.
“It was about 5:30pm and all men were on work as usual. I was at home and feeding the cows with grass. After feeding the cows I went to the washroom. Suddenly, a deafening sound came, “Kya kar rahe ho?” Startled, I turned back to see an army soldier standing right behind me. I had a fright and I came out,” Adil Mir, an eyewitness, told Kashmir Reader.
“As soon as I came out, the army soldier asked me how many militants were inside. I stood shocked and said none. He banged on my main door and dozens of soldiers entered my home,” Adil Mir said.
“The forces ransacked many houses during the encounter, and even ransacked the window panes of the mosque,” locals said.
“When people saw that the army had cordoned off the house, they left their homes to a safer place,” an eyewitness said.
“I saw that the SOG and army had cordoned off the house of Mohammad Ramzan Mir, a labourer. He had five daughters, an old mother, and a lone son. For a while I thought that the army was just conducting a search operation. But at 9:30pm, they opened fire,” said the eyewitness.
Under the shadow of tall walnut trees, was Ramzan Mir’s newly-constructed house at the periphery of the village. The village comprises nearly100 households.
“The family of Mir, which includes five daughters, was forced to come out of the house. They resisted for a while and didn’t come out till 8pm. Police and army soldiers dragged them out of their house, resulting in fracture in the arms of two daughters,” an eyewitness said.
The witnesses claimed that the militants were given no offer to surrender, which is contradictory to the army version, according to which the militants were offered a “surrender call”.
“The firing was one-sided. The militants did not retaliate till late evening. The forces kept raining bullets and lobbing dozens of grenades on the house,” an eyewitness said.
“When people came for rescue, the forces resorted to aerial firing and sent them back. To get rid of the people, the forces suspended the encounter till everyone had taken shelter in their home, and then they again started the attack,” an eyewitness said.
As the night came, the forces tried to blow up the house by using grenades and other explosives. But the house was concrete and recently constructed. It threw up its own challenge. At about morning time at 4:30am, the army set ablaze the house after pouring gunpowder over it. Some eyewitnesses said that the militants came out and were shot dead in the lawn of the house.
All the killed militants were locals. One of them was married and had a lone daughter.
Two weapons have been recovered from the gunfight site, said a police official.
The militants’ bodies were taken to army camp Gagarpora from where they were later sent to their homes for last rites.
According to the police statement, the Budgam police along with the army’s 2 RR (Rashtriya Rifles) launched a cordon and search operation in Radbug area in the jurisdiction of police station Magam. During the search operation, militants fired upon the search party. The militants were asked to surrender through their family members but they denied and fired indiscriminately. The fire was retaliated. Three militants affiliated with HM were killed in the encounter. Two security personnel were injured and were shifted to hospital for treatment.The police said that Sajad Gilkar played a key role in the murder of DySP Mohammad Ayoub Pandith of the security wing, who was beaten to death at Jamia Masjid Nowhatta, Srinagar. After the killing, he went underground and joined HM militant ranks.
Police said that Gilkar was also involved in grenade attacks on CRPF at Nowhatta on 02.04.2017, CRPF camp SafaKadal on 11.06.2017, and grenade attack on police party at Khanyar on 30.04.2017. He was said to be involved in the attack on Abdul Qayoom in Barzulla on 24.05.2017 and on the army convoy near SKIMS Bemina on 01.04.2017.