SrinagarAmid heart-rending scenes, the two militants and four young civilians killed in a shootout in the Shopian district on Sunday were laid to rest on Monday by gatherings of thousands of people.
Townsfolk conducted the burials in the native villages of the slain, all identified as locals, after authorities handed over the bodies to their families for last rites.
The bodies of four of the slain had been found on Sunday night, while two more bodies were found early on Monday.
The army said that the four civilian youth had been accompanying the militants and were killed when troops opened answering fire on being attacked.
Even as police investigations are on, the families of the four slain youth have strongly contested the army claim that they were over-ground workers (OGW) for militants or had militant links.
Of the civilians, Sohail Ahmad Wagay was laid to rest at Trenz, Shahnawaz Wagay at Moolu, Trenz, Shahid Khan at Malik Gund, and Gowhar Ahmad Lone at Moolu, Trenz.
The two militants Amir Malik of Harmain and Ashiq Hussain Bhat of Rakh Kapran were also buried in their native villages amid pro-freedom slogans.
Gun-salutes were offered by militants at Bhats funeral prayers in Kapran.
Even as police investigations are on into the killings at the Pahnoo village, the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said that the four civilian youth had been caught in cross-fire.
Countering the armys claims, a brother of Suhail Ahmad Wagay said that he (Suhail) had called him on phone at around 7:24 p.m., and told him that he had reached Pehlipora after dropping their mother at their sisters
After about half an hour, we heard the shocking news about his killing along with two other youth, Muhammad Abbas Wagay said. The army is telling lies that he or the two other youth were over ground workers (OGWs).
Shahnawaz was working as an employee at Sohails house.
While bodies of Shahnawaz, Shahid, Sohail and Amir were found immediately, the body of Gowhar was found on the steering wheel of the vehicle (Wagon-R JK01Q-1723) he was driving the next morning.
The body of Ashiq was found 8 to ten kilometers away in an apple orchard at Saidipora.
The police said he (Ashiq) was part of the chain of the incident at Pahnoo.
The army in its version has stated that there was an ambush and as the vehicle (JK04D-7353) was asked to stop, there was fire which was retaliated, leading the killing of four persons travelling in it, a police officer said. The vehicle, Swift, belonged to Sohail Wagay. The militant killed in the shootout has been identified as Mohammad Amir Malik son of Bashir Ahmad Malik of Harmain Shopian.
In a statement issued today, the armys Srinagar based defence ministry spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia said that an Army Mobile Vehicle Check Post (MVCP) was deployed along road Trenz- Pinzoora near village Pohanu last evening.
At around 8 pm in the evening, two speeding vehicles were seen approaching the MVCP location from the direction of village Trenz. The soldiers deployed signaled the vehicles to stop, however both the vehicles continued to move. At this point, when a searchlight was flashed towards the approaching vehicles, heavy firing came from both the vehicles, Kalia said.
Own troops, in self-defence, responded the same with fire. In the ensuing gunfight, one militant firing from one of the vehicles was hit and he fell off the vehicle and the vehicle veered off the road towards the nala and the second vehicle sped off, the spokesmans statement said.
Later during the search, the body of the militant was recovered, who was identified as Amir Ahmad Malik R/O village Harmain, Cat- C Militant. He was part of Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit and was active since July 2017, it said.
War like stores including one AK-74, 3 magazines and 88 rounds were also recovered from the dead militant. Three more dead bodies were found in the vehicle during the search. These individuals were accompanying the militant, it said.
The second vehicle that had fired at the Army was found in the morning today (05 March) near Pinzura, Shopian where one more individual was found dead. He has been identified as Gowhar Ahmed Lone of Molu-Chitragam village of Shopian, it said.
At around 9 am today, the body of another militant, identified as Ashiq Hussain Bhat, R/O Rakh Kaparn, part of the Lashkar-e-Toiba group, was found from apple orchards of village Saidpura, who is also linked with the same chain of events at village Pahnu, it said.
Meanwhile, police filed FIR under No. 54/ 2018 u/s 307 RPC, 7/27 I A Act with regard to the incident and started further investigations into it.
The case was registered after the army unit filed a report with regard to the incident, official sources said.
Omar Asks Mehbooba to Clarify ; Says Its Yet Another Stark Reminder Of Deteriorating Situation
Former Chief Minister and National Conference Working President Omar Abdullah on Monday, in light of the killings in Shopian, expressed grief over the continued bloodbath in Kashmir and said the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Valley was a matter of grave concern and called for serious introspection.
The Shopian incident is yet another stark reminder of the grave and rapidly deteriorating situation in the Valley and varying accounts from the Chief Minister and the Security Forces on the incident are unfortunate and further perpetuate the sense of disenchantment, distrust and alienation, the NC Working President said.
The NC Working President said the State Government should make public the details of the incident and also the circumstances leading up to it. The Chief Minister has termed the deceased as civilians and it is hence incumbent upon her to take stringent, legal action based on the information she has as the Home Minister of the State. As the Head of the Unified Command, her word has to be the final word and has to be followed by visible, concrete action, the NC Working President said in the statement issued from Party Headquarters on Monday.
Civilian Killed In Cross Firing: Mehbooba
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today said she is deeply distressed by the killing of civilians in "crossfire" in Shopian district here.
Six people, including two militants, were killed in a firing incident last night in south Kashmir's Shopian district after the ultras fired upon a joint check-point of the security forces.
"Deeply distressed by more deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire in Shopian. My heartfelt condolences to the deceased's families," Mehbooba said in a tweet.
After the incident, schools and educational institutes, which were to open today after two-month-long winter break, were closed as a precautionary measure in the Valley.
No Circumstances Can Justify Civilian Killings, Local MLA Shopian
Saying no circumstances can justify civilian killings, MLA Shopian Mohammad Yousuf Bhat on Monday said killings have tendency to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere.
On his partys Peoples Democratic Party twitter handle, Bhat wrote: When your heart bleeds & you are emotionally amputated,no condemnation is enough.I have no words to condemn these killings at Shopian. No circumstances can justify these civilian killings which can further the tendency to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere.
In another tweet that appeared on PDPs twitter handle, Bhat said: My solidarity and my sincere condolences go out to the bereaved families. I demand a judicial enquiry be ordered to look into the circumstances under which such killings have taken place & the culprits of this heinous crime are booked and brought to justice swiftly.
Army Spreading Propaganda, lies: Mirwaiz
Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Monday accused army of spreading propaganda and lies over the civilian killings in south Kashmirs Shopian.
Mirwaizs reaction came after another civilians body was recovered by locals near the shootout site this morning Lies and propaganda being spread by the Indian Army as another civilian Gowhar Ahmed Lone found brutally killed behind his steering wheel in the mayhem let loose by them at Shopian yesterday night taking the toll of killings to 6!, Mirwaiz wrote on social networking site.
Investigating Armys Claims: DGP
Director General of Police S P Vaid Monday said they were investigating the firing incident in which six people, including two terrorists, were killed by the Army in Shopian district.
Vaid said the situation was under control and appealed to the people of Kashmir to maintain peace.
Two weapons, along with other arms and ammunition, were seized from the possession of the militants, who fired upon a joint check-point of the security forces last night, the DGP told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
The troops retaliated after they were attacked and bodies of two terrorists and four others were recovered, Vaid said, adding that the matter is being investigated.
Asked whether the deceased were overground workers, he said that is what army is saying. "We will see what their affiliation was," he added.
On the return of a youth from militant ranks to his family, the DGP expressed hope that more women would make an appeal for their sons' return.
"You have seen six bodies are lying (in Shopian).
Taking up arms or joining terrorism only lead to loss of life and nothing can be achieved," he said.
On recent advertisements in newspapers seeking deportation of Rohingya Muslims, the DGP said the Union government's would take a call on this issue.
"It is a matter involving two nations and very soon the Centre will address the issue," he said.
Later, launching a website and mobile application of a non-governmental organisation, the DGP said the essential part of parenting is to hold dialogue with children and engage them so that they do not go astray and take to petty crimes.
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