A senior Hizbul Mujahideen militant was among the two militants killed in the village of Drabgam, south of Pulwama, in Kashmir, on Monday, while two members of the army were wounded in the shooting.
One civilian also died and 21 people were injured when security forces opened fire on protesters trying to help the militants escape.
The two soldiers, including a commander of 44 Rashtriya Rifles (RR), were injured in the initial exchange of gunfire and were transferred to the 92nd Army Base Hospital in Srinagar.
Among the militants killed is Sameer Ahmad Bhat, aka Sameer Tiger, who is believed to be one of the top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen. The other militant killed was identified as Aqib Mushtaq Khan, a resident of the village of Rajpora, Pulwama, who had allegedly joined the ranks of the militants in July last year.
“It is a great success,” said the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, S P Pani to The Indian Express. “He (Sameer) was involved in a series of atrocities, murders and other things.”
Sameer was on the Army list of the most wanted militants in southern Kashmir. A resident of Drabgam, it was said that he was very popular with local residents and his images often circulated on social networks. In a recent statement, police had said that Sameer was behind the fatal attack on BJP leader Ghulam Nabi Patel in Rajpora, Pulwama. Two policemen were injured in the attack.
Sameer, who joined the ranks of militants in May 2016, was previously a key worker for the militants and an active stone squad, a police spokesman said. “He was very close to Riyaz Naikoo (Hizbul Mujahideen’s chief of operations) and they were discovered together in a recent video.”
IGP Pani confirmed that a civilian protester was also “killed in crossfire”. As the shooting progressed, hundreds of people from Drabgam and other villages gathered near the rendezvous site and threw stones at the security forces to disrupt the cordon and search operation, and to help the hiding militants escape.
When forces opened fire and fired pellets to drive them away, a civilian demonstrator, identified as Shahid Ahmad Dar (25), a resident of Arihal in Pulwama, was killed and several others were injured.
“We have received 21 injured people,” Pulwama District Hospital medical superintendent Dr. Abdul Rashid Parra told The Indian Express. “They were hit by bullets or pellets.” We have referred 12 injured people to the hospitals in Srinagar. ”
Medical superintendent of SMHS Hospital in Srinagar Dr. Saleem Tak said that they have received seven patients. “Five of them suffered damage by sediment, two were hit by bullets,” he said.
Meanwhile, the road from Pulwama to Drabgam was blocked in several places with stones, cut poplars and large concrete drainage pipes. In different villages along the route, men and women, both young and a little older, went out into the street and threw a rock from time to time against a passing vehicle. A stream of men, mostly teenagers and twenty-somethings, some with masked faces, entered the town and threw stones at the police and army personnel.