SRINAGAR: Kashmir Valley erupted with violent protests after government forces killed top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and his aide Faizan Mushtaq in a gun battle in Tral, Pulwama on Saturday morning. Sabzar was a close confidant of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani whose killing last July triggered a mass uprising in Kashmir.
Spontaneous strike shut Kashmir with protesters taking to streets and clashing with police and paramilitary forces. At least one protester was killed and nearly 100 others were injured in day long clashes across Valley.
Authorities immediately snapped mobile and broadband internet and clamped curfew like restrictions in all major towns including Srinagar but reports of protests continued to pour in till late on Saturday.
According to reports, clashes broke out in Pulwama, Khanabal, Kulgam, Awantipora, Shopian, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora and several other townships.
In summer capital Srinagar, students were first to hit streets. Reports said students of Amar Singh College, SP College, SP and MP Schools and Gandhi Memorial College came out of classes and staged anti-India protests.
They also pelted stones on police and CRPF personnel deployed outside their institutions resulting in clashes. Within no time, clashes and protests spread in downtown and uptown areas of the Srinagar.
Police and paramilitary forces resorted to teargas shelling and pellet firing. Protests also broke out in all the universities, including KU, IUST and Central University.
Tral, the hometown of Sabzar witnesses intense clashes. Here armed police fired on the surging crowds. Half dozen of the protesters were hit by live ammunition. According to protesters one youth identified as Aqib Ahmad Dar of Khanqah Medoora Tral was killed after troops fired on people who were trying to march towards the encounter site in Soimoh village of Tral.
Reports said that as clashes were going on in the town thousands of people began marching on foot and in vehicles towards Rathsuna, Tral from surrounding areas.
Reports said that the movement of people was restricted and people were barred from reaching the native village of militant commander.
Amid Azadi slogans, protesters resorted to intense stone-pelting on armed forces at Rathsuna, Hardumir, Buchoo areas of the town. The clashes according to reports left scores of people injured.
Eyewitnesses said that at least four civilians suffered bullet injuries near the site of encounter. One witness said that forces opened fire while leaving from the site of the encounter in Saimoh village. It is where Aqib Ahmad was hit by a bullet in his head. He succumbed at Sub-district Hospital Tral. According to the doctors at SMHS Hospital Srinagar at least four bullet hit and five pellet hit persons were admitted there on Saturday. Several others were referred to Bone and Joints Hospital, Barzulla.
Witnesses said that thousands of people participated in the last rites of slain militant Faizan Ahmed. Muhammad Yasin Malik, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman also participated in the funeral prayers of the slain militant. Local sources said that last rites of militant commander Sabzar Ahmed, whose body was handed over to his family, will be performed on Sunday.
Earlier a police official giving details about the encounter which led to the killing of Sabzar said that militants fired upon a patrol party of 42-RR at Hurdimir locality of Soimoh village. The fire was retaliated and the militants took shelter in the nearby houses. Subsequently, a cordon and search operation was launched by the joint team of Awantipora police, 42 RR and 180- BN CRPF. The militants hiding in the houses again opened fire on the joint team, triggering an encounter, he said.
The police official said in this encounter two Hizb militants identified as Faizan Muzaffar and Sabzar Ahmad Bhat were killed. Arms and ammunition was recovered from the encounter site, he said.
Sabzar joined Hizbul Mujahideen on the day when Burhan Wanis brother was killed by army on April 15, 2015. Sabzar was close aide of Burhan as well as Zakir the successor of Burhan Wani. Faizan had recently joined the militant ranks and was 17 year old.
After news about Sabzars killing spread, clashes amid spontaneous shutdown occurred across Kashmir Valley. Shopkeepers downed the shutters while public transport thinned down in all districts of Kashmir, starting from Pulwama and Anantnag.
Meanwhile, the joint resistance leadership Saturday called for complete shutdown on 28 & 29th May against killings of Hizb commander and other militants. Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik issued a joint statement, paying rich tributes to slain youth. They blamed Indian authorities for prevailing appalling situation in state and said that their rigid and unrealistic approach is the root cause of uncertainty in state. They also called on people to march towards Tral on May 30 for condolence meeting of the slain militants.
Following the killing of Hizb commander, authorities decided to snap all mobile internet facilities including 2G, 3G and 4G. The decision was taken immediately after news of Sabzar’s killing reached Srinagar.
An official said that the outgoing and incoming call facility on prepaid mobile phones was suspended to prevent spreading of rumours.
Authorities meanwhile suspended train service in wake of the tense situation.
With inputs from Basharat Rasheed (Tral)/ Sameer Ahmad (Anantnag)
Hizb pays tribute to Sabzar
Hizbul Mujahideen has paid rich tribute to its commander Sabzar Ahmed and his associate Faizan Ahmed who were killed in a gunfight in Saimouh hamlet of South Kashmirs Tral town on Saturday morning.
Hizb operations spokesperson Burhanuddin told news agency CNS over phone that Hizb Chief Syed Salahuddin, Deputy Chief Saifullah Khalid and Operational Field Commander Mehmood Ghaznavi while paying tribute to Sabzar Ahmed said that he was a true soldier whose death has united the whole nation.
Sabzar was a companion of Burhan Wani who sacrificed his life for a sacred Cause. He was loyal to Burhan and his nation. His every drop of blood will produce a Sabzar in Kashmir, he said.
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