An alleged terrorist arrested by police 13 days ago is among the seven militants killed in three separate encounters across the Kashmir Valley, police said.
According to authorities, four militants, including terrorist Showkat Ahmad Sheikh, were killed in an encounter in Lolab area of Kupwara. They said the other three militants — Bambar Khan, Al-Bakash, and Aftab Bhai — were from Pakistan and owed allegiance to the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
As soon as news about Sheikh reached his native village of Sedow in Shopian district, protests broke out instantly. Police dispersed the demonstrators as they tried to march towards Shopian and were stopped at Chotipora village. A few smoke shells were fired into the crowd.
In a series of tweets, police had on Sunday said Sheikh led them to a hideout in Lolab in Kupwara where three militants were trapped.
“#KupwaraPolice launched a joint anti-terrorist #operation along with Army’s 28RR on the disclosure of an arrested #terrorist Showkat Ahmed Sheikh in Lolab area of #Kupwara,” tweeted police on Sunday as it went deep into Lolab to conduct counter-terrorist operation. “During search of hideouts, hiding #terrorists fired upon joint search parties and our team also retaliated, in which one #terrorist got killed. The arrested terrorist also got trapped. #Encounter in progress. Further details shall follow.”
Late in the night, police informed by tweeting that another militant was killed.
On Monday, authorities tweeted again, saying Showkat was killed in the encounter, along with three militants, taking the toll in the Kupwara encounter to four.
“#Kupwara Encounter Updated: 02 more #terrorists including #terrorist Showkat got #neutralised (total 04). #Incriminating materials, arms & ammunition recovered. Search going on. Further details shall follow.
@JmuKmrPolice,” police tweeted on Monday morning.
As news reached Sedow, Showkat’s family members and protesters wondered how he could be killed in an encounter in Kupwara when police claimed to have arrested him from Shopian on June 7.
In a press statement released late on Monday night, police said terrorist Showkat was the mastermind behind an IED blast in a private vehicle at Sedow in which a soldier was killed and another injured. “During his interrogation, it was revealed that he was ferrying terrorists and arms from Lolab to Shopian. Kupwara police got his custody changed by the order of an honourable court and arrested in one case,” police said, adding he further revealed more sensitive information related to terrorists operating in Lolab Valley. “On his disclosure, an operation was launched in which he got trapped in an ensuing encounter in which one foreign terrorist was neutralised. Several attempts were made to rescue him but he got neutralised in the firing of terrorists,” police said.
In a press release issued on June 7, police had said that on June 2, an IED blast took place in a private vehicle hired by 15 Garwal COB Sedow for operational duties, resulting in grievous injuries to three Army jawans on board.
Police had stated that on the basis of technical leads and other evidence, the role of two— Showkat Ahmed Sheikh, son of Abdul Ahad, and Pervaz Ahmed Lone, son of Nazir Ahmed, both residents of Sedow— had surfaced. They were arrested subsequently.
The press release said incriminating material, including electronic items used in executing the blast, was recovered. Investigations also revealed that the entire conspiracy was hatched by Abid Ramzan Sheikh, an active terrorist of the LeT, who was in constant touch with the accused and motivated and trained them to fix the IED on the vehicle and detonate it remotely, the police statement said.
The other encounters
Meanwhile, three militants were killed in two other encounters in Kulgam and Pulwama districts.
Two militants, Jaish-e-Mohammed operative Zakir Paddar and LeT man Haris Sharief, were killed in DH Pora in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
In Pulwama, one Lashkar militant was killed in a midnight encounter in Chatapora locality of Pulwama. He has been identified as Suhail Ahmed Khan of Chogul, Handwara.
IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar said in a tweet, “By targeting innocent civilians including women & kids, unarmed policemen & outside labourers, terrorists can’t deter our efforts to bring peace in valley. Our counter-militancy operations will continue simultaneously in all 3 regions specially against foreign militants.”
Kumar told the media that the security forces had killed 114 militants, of which 33 were foreign terrorists. Around the same period last year, Kumar said, 52 militants were killed. He said as more and more foreign terrorists get killed, the number of locals otherwise wooed to join terrorism will automatically drop.