SRINAGAR: The authorities Tuesday claimed that three Kashmiri militants including the Divisional Commander of the banned Jaish-e-Muhammad were killed in a prolonged encounter that started Monday night in South Kashmirs Hanjan area of Pulwama district. One of the slain militant according to police had joined the militant group two weeks ago.
Police sources said that after a tip off, Army personnel from 44 RR, 183 Battalion CRPF and counter insurgent Special Operation Group established a cordon of Hergam, Hanjan hamlet of Rajpora constituency of Pulwama district on Monday evening. As the search party came close to the house of one Wali Muhammad Nengroo, the militants holed up there targeted search party and resorted to indiscriminate firing. The government forces retaliated and exchange of fire continued for 4 hours. Reinforcement sought by search parties brought more areas under cordon while operation was halted at around 10:30 on Monday night to avoid any civilian causality, a top police official said adding that one of the three militants had been killed on Monday evening but the body lied in the house as militants gave no room to government forces to came close to the residential house.
He said that in a bid to foil every attempt on part of militants to escape from the scène, concertina wires were laid around the house and generators were pressed into service for lightning purposes.
The police official added that the overnight operation started soon after morning prayers on Tuesday and every effort was made to neutralize the militants without any delay. The militants displayed stiffness as a result the operation continued till 2 in the afternoon, he said.
Locals said that after failing to neutralize the hiding militants the government forces used explosives to raise the residential house of Wali Muhammad to ground. The explosives exploded with such a bang that the roof of the house shattered in pieces in air, an eyewitness said.
Eyewitnesses said that after raising the house to ground, government forces after an interval of 15 minutes came near to debris and recovered three bullet-ridden bodies from the spot.
Police identified the slain militants as Showkat Ahmed Dar son of Ghulam Qadir resident of Aglar Kandi Pulwama, Altaf Ahmed Rather son of Muhammad Abdullah resident of Chak Badrinath Pulwama and Farooq Ahmed Dar son Ghulam Ahmed resident of Dalwan Budgam.
Police sources said that 22 years old Showkat Ahmed Dar who was a shopkeeper by profession had joined the militant ranks recently while Altaf Ahmed was active in the South Kashmir form past five years. Altaf was the Divisional Commander of JeM and his name had figured in the list of wanted militants. Farooq was also active in the district from last 2 years, police said adding that the death of Farooq and Altaf is a major set-back for the JeM and it will hardly revive itself now in the district.
Reports said that as the dead bodies of the trio were taken to Rajpora Police Station, agitated people on roads amid pro-freedom slogans attacked the police vehicles with stones, however there was no retaliation on part of police.
Police said that government forces recovered 3 AK-47 rifles, 6 magazines and three ruptured mobile phones from the debris of the house near the encounter site.
Meanwhile, Jaish-e-Muhammad spokesperson Muhammad Hasan Shah said on phone that their fighters killed at least 8 Indian army personnel during the encounter. All the three Mujhadeen were locals and the outfit salutes them and pledges to take their mission forward, Shah said.
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