Military choppers used to hit militants, violent protests rock Pulwama
PULWAMA: An operation launched jointly by the army, SOG and CRPF in Ratnipora-Lajoora belt late Monday ended after 19 hours on Tuesday after the death of two militants, both hailing from the nearby villages.
Residents said the army pressed choppers into service in the area to trace and neutralize the two militants.
The deceased militants were identified as Showkat Ahmed Lone alias Ali, a resident of Lelhar Pulwama and Gulzar Ahmad Bhat alias Shaheen of Telangam Pulwama. Both were reportedly associated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Guns began booming soon after contingents of armys 50 RR, SOG and CRPF cordoned off Ratnipora-Lajoora belt at around 7 P.M on Monday.
Police said the exchange of fire continued for hours but with nightfall, guns fell silent.
Local sources said that the militants escaped from Pir Mohalla, the encounter site during night hours and took refuge in an apple orchard nearby.
In the morning forces resorted to heavy gunfire but militants did not retaliate and moved towards vast paddy fields, sources said.
A police official said that the Army personnel stationed at Kakapora, Badamibagh, Khrewshar and Malangam camps along with SOG Pulwama, Kakapora, Newa and Cargo were part of the operation.
Later Army brought in a chopper which, reportedly hurled grenades from the air on the militants who kept on changing positions taking cover of standing paddy crops between Ratnipora and Lajoora villages.
At around 2:30 PM, the forces spotted two bodies and called off the operation, local sources said.
It was for the second time after 1991, that Indian Army had pressed Army choppers into service to trace and neutralize militants in the area.
In 1991, army had killed the then Hizbul Muhadeen district commander Fayaz Ahmed alias Muhammad Sikandar and his associates in Tumlahal hamlet of the district after firing on them from the choppers.
Reports from the area said as the operation to kill the militants was on large number of villagers came out of their homes and attacked security forces with rocks in order to break the established cordon in a bid to give safe passage to militants.
Government forces resorted to tear-gas shelling to disperse the protesters. Eyewitnesses said that at least 19 persons were wounded during the violent clashes between protesters and government forces.
The protesters raising pro-freedom slogans resorted to heavy stone-pelting on government forces, making tough for the forces to trace and neutralize the militants, police sources said.
Police said, Showkat Ahmad Lone alias Ali was a categorized militant and was active since 2013. He was involved in many incidents of militancy in which civilians and security personnel were killed.
He was involved in Pahoo grenade attack in which one CRPF man was killed and others including a CRPF Inspector injured. He was responsible for attack on sumo stand at Kakapora.
He was also involved in Galander attack in which two police personnel and a civilian were killed. He was also involved in Puchal incident in which a Head Constable of Railways was killed. The militant was involved in creating fear psychosis among the Panchs and Sarpanchs in Pulwama.
Regarding Gulzar, the spokesman said, Gulzar Ahmad Bhat alias Shaheen was also a categorized militant and was active since 2014. He was involved in motivating the youth to join militancy in the recent past. He was involved in weapon snatching incident at Government Hospital in Pulwama.
He played an important role in strengthening the over ground network of LeT outfit in the area. He was a close associate of Divisional Commander of LeT outfit namely Qasim. A number of FIRs stand registered in various police stations against him.
Sources said that prior to militancy, Showkat was running an automobile workshop. Sources said that the Gulzar was a science post-graduate and also father of two. He was 46.
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