A gunfight that raged on the outskirts of Indian-administered Kashmir’s summer capital, Srinagar, on Tuesday late evening, ended on Wednesday with the death of alleged three pro-freedom insurgents.
As the families of the slain claimed that their sons were not militants, the Indian military told the press that “intelligence inputs were pouring in about the movement of militants on the Srinagar-Varmul highway from past few days”.
Local reports said the gunfight started on Tuesday evening after the J&K police, the Indian army and paramilitary Centre Reserve Police Force launched a cordon and search operation in the locality close to the national highway after inputs about the presence of militants.
“Yesterday, we developed leads that militants are hiding in a house near Noora Hospital at Lawaypora,” General officer Commanding H S Sahi said.
The gunfight was suspended Tuesday night due to darkness but according to the military fire exchange took place at the crack of the dawn on Wednesday.
Sahi, the top army officer for the Indian army in Kashmir, said the three local insurgents were ‘repeatedly’ asked to surrender but they refused to do so.
“The militants fired indiscriminately at security forces and lobbed grenades as well. With the first light the firefight again resumed and militant used heavy ammunition against security forces,” he said in a press briefing near the gunfight site.
The firefight ended at 11:30 am.
“Militants choose Srinagar outskirts or highways to carry out attacks on security forces to get maximum publicity. The nature of ammunition used by the militants in today’s gunfight, suggests they were planning a big strike on the highway,” the top officer claimed.
While the army officer claimed use of heavy ammunition, a police officer told a local news agency that an Ak-47 riffle, two pistols and a few grenades were recovered from the site of the gunfight.
Families of the three youth killed in the gunfight identified them as Zubair Ahmad from Turkawangam Shopian, Ajaz Maqbool and Athar Mushtaq from Putrigam in Pulwama.
The families said that they were students and had left their home yesterday and alleged that they were picked up and then killed in an encounter.
Shouting slogans, the family members and relatives of the slain youth assembled outside the Police Control Room in Srinagar demanding the return of their bodies.
“Ajaz left for university and was caught by the forces personnel and now after killing him they are branding him as militant,” said a relative of Ajaz, adding that he had left his home to appear in a university exam.
Former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said that authorities should come clean on this encounter. On twitter, the PDP president wrote: “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 & killed in a staged encounter. Authorities need to come clean on this.” She also posted a video of protesting relatives of the youth killed in encounter.
Stone hurling protests were also reported in the area even after the operation ended.