Army Soldier, Militant Killed In Pulwama Gunfight

SRINAGAR — A soldier and a Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant, who had helped Lashker-e-Taiba commander Naveed Jatt escape from custody amid shootout at SMHS hospital last year, were killed in a gunfight at Ratnipora in Pulwama district of south Kashmir on Tuesday.

Reports said that a joint team of army's 50 RR, 10 Para, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation at Ratnipora today wee hours.

A police spokesman said that in the ensuing gunfight, a militant was killed and three army soldiers Baljeet Singh of 50 RR, Sepoy Saneed and Naik Chander Pal of 10 Para sustained gunshot injuries and one of them Baljeet Singh succumbed to his wounds at 92 base hospital here.

The slain militant has been identified as Hilal Ahmad Rather alias Zarar of Begumbagh, Kakapora.

Meanwhile, a residential house where the militants were hiding razed to rubble during the gunfight, sources said.

Sources also said that two to three militants escaped while taking advantage of darkness in the initial exchange of firefight during wee hours. The militants were part of a joint group of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen, the sources added.

According to sources, Hilal was working as over ground worker when he was spotted in CCTV footage among the men who helped Naveed Jatt, Lashkar-e-Taiba commander, escape from SMHC hospital in February last year. Soon Hilal went into hiding and actively joined the militant ranks and was affiliated himself with Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, they said.    

Naveed Jatt remained active for nearly ten months after his escape before he was killed in an encounter with government forces in Budgam district in November last year. 

As per police records, Hilal was affiliated with HM outfit. He had a long history of "terror crime" records and was wanted by law for his complicity in a series of militant attacks including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities, a police spokesman said.

"Several cases were registered against him for his involvement in militant activities and prominent among them are FIR No. 312/2016 at PS Pulwama U/S 147, 148, 307, 337, 332, 427 RPC, FIR No. 371/2016 at PS Pulwama U/S 147, 148, 307, 337, 332, 427 RPC, FIR No. 296/2016 at PS Pulwama U/S 147, 148, 307, 337, 332, 427 RPC and FIR No. 8/2018 at PS Karan Nagar U/S 302, 120-B RPC, 7/27 Arms Act which pertains to the militant attack inside the premises of SMHS Hospital in which two cops were martyred and a Pakistani militant Naveed Jatt @Hanzalla had managed to escape," the spokesman said.

Incriminating material such as arms & ammunition, was recovered from the site of encounter. All these materials have been taken in the case records for the purpose of investigation, he said.

The body of the slain was handed over to his family after completion of all medico-legal formalities, he said.

Meanwhile, the thousands of people offered funeral prayers of the slain and was later laid to rest amid pro-freedom slogans in his native village.  

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