Shopian: Top militant Saju Tiger along with another militant and a civilian “associate” of theirs – according to the police – were killed by government forces in a nine-hour-long gunfight which took place in orchards at Dragad locality of Sugan village in Shopian district on Friday.
In the evening, another gunfight in Midoora area of Tral in Pulwama district ended with the killing of two militants, believed to be members of Jaish-e-Muhammad.
Several people were injured at Midoora as government forces fired pellet guns and tear smoke shells to disperse stone-pelting youths who had gathered around the site of the gunfight in Nanner village.
In Shopian district, eyewitnesses said that clashes erupted near the gunfight site in Sugan village and at least six persons sustained pellet injuries. However, only one person was brought to district hospital Shopian with pellet injuries and he was later discharged after treatment.
According to police sources, a nocturnal cordon and search operation was launched by a joint team of government forces including 44 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) of army, central reserve police force (CRPF), and special operation group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police in the village orchards at Dragad on “specific inputs about presence of a group of militants”. The police sources said that the search party was fired upon by hiding militants, triggering an encounter which ended with the killing of two militants and a civilian who was described by police as their associate.
Locals said that at around Sehri time, gunshots were heard in the area followed by a long lull. Later in the morning, gunshots were again heard from the site. Locals said that the gunfight took place in an open space among orchards.
The militants slain in Shopian were identified as top militant Abid Manzoor Magray alias Saju Tiger, son of Manzoor Ahmad Magray, resident of Nowpora Payeen village of Pulwama; Bilal Ahmad Bhat, son of Gul Muhammad Bhat, resident of Bhatnoora village of Pulwama; and Jasim Rasheed, an alleged militant associate, resident of Malnad locality of Sugan village of Shopian.
Police said that bodies of all the three slain were handed over to their respective families after official formalities were conducted by the afternoon.
Abid Manzoor, according to family sources, was active since the 2016 uprising and has left behind two younger brothers, parents, and grandparents.
Bilal, according to family sources, took up arms at the beginning of 2017 and has left behind a brother, a sister, and his father. His mother had passed away years ago.
Jasim, according to locals of Sugan, was missing since Thursday evening. They said that he had left home in the evening and on Friday afternoon villagers came to know that he had been killed along with two militants in the orchards where the gunfight had taken place.
Police in a press release said that the encounter site was located in orchards and there was no habitation nearby.
The police said that the slain militants were affiliated with proscribed terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen.
“According to police records, Abid had a history of terror crime records since 2016. Abid was part of groups involved in planning & executing series of terror attacks in the area and many other civilian atrocities. He was involved in case FIR No 509/2016 pertaining to terror attack at Litter, Case FIR No. 281/2016 pertaining to weapon snatching at Gudbug Guard, Case FIR No. 19/2018 pertaining to firing on PP Lassipora, Case FIR No. 35/2018 pertaining to firing on patrolling party at Alaipora Lassipora, Case FIR No. 45/2018 pertaining to theft of vehicle, Case FIR No. 304/2013 pertaining to kidnapping of a girl and several other criminal cases,” the police statement said.
It added, “Similarly, Manzoor was also involved in several terror attacks on security establishments in the area. Many terror crime cases were also registered against him.”
“Jasim, as per the records and inputs available with police, coupled with the family version, was missing since yesterday afternoon and was part of this group,” the police said.
A senior police official told Kashmir Reader that the bodies of the two militants slain in Midoora, Tral, had been retrieved.
“Their identities are yet to be ascertained. Formalities are being completed,” he said.
The Tral gunfight erupted in Nanner village at about 5:00 PM, following a cordon and search operation by government forces.
“We had inputs regarding presence of militants in the area. An operation was launched and the hiding militants were asked to surrender,” the police official said.
He said that the militants, however, opened fire, which was retaliated. The official said that the gunfight continued for a couple of hours before the militants were killed.
Local sources told Kashmir Reader that intense clashes erupted around the site of the gunfight soon after news of the encounter spread in the area.
Hundreds of youths, sources said, tried to reach the site of the gunfight in a bid to save the militants.
“They were dispersed by heavy tear smoke shelling and pellet firing by government forces, leaving several people injured,” the sources said.
The injured were treated locally, they said.
The authorities snapped mobile internet services in the area soon after the gunfight began.
Bodies of the militants were taken to the police station and were not yet handed over to people till last reports came in.