Hyderpora: Families Question ‘Encounter’, Police Asserts Militancy Links

Mudasir Gul (L) & Muhammad Altaf Bhat (R)

Srinagar: Shortly after the police claimed to have killed militants in Srinagar’s Hyderpora locality, the families of the two slain civilians have questioned the police version, asserting that both of them were killed in “cold blood”.

Four persons were killed in a shootout, according to police, Monday night in the high security quarter of the city. They included Muhammad Altaf Bhat, the house owner and his tenant Mudasir Gul, a dentist turned businessman.

Noha Bhat, the daughter of 48 year old Muhammad Altaf Bhat, who owned the property where the killings took place, raised questions over the police version of the incident. “There is no proof of militants being there (in the building),” she said. “There was no firing from the other side.”

Inspector General of Police Kashmir Vijay Kumar however tweeted soon after the shootout saying: “The house owner who was injured in the terrorist fire, succumbed to his injuries. Terrorists have been hiding on the top floor of his building. As per source and digital evidence, he has been working as terror associate.”

Altaf’s daughter, however, accused the police of killing her father. “Only they [police] opened fire and killed common people,” she said, further alleging that Altaf was used as a human shield. “My father was first taken upstairs and then let go, this was repeated a second time, on the third time he was fired upon.”

The youngest of Altaf Bhat’s three children, she said, a class third student, still had no inkling that his father had been killed. “I appeal to them [the police] to at least give his dead body back,” she said. “He was not a militant. He was killed only because he was a Muslim. What regime rules here,” daughter said in a video clip that went viral on social media

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She further alleged that the police fled after murdering her father, to which a tenant in the building was an eyewitness. The tenant, later identified as Mudasir Gul, who she claimed “was a witness to the incident, was also shot dead.”

Mudasir was a dental surgeon by qualification and businessman by profession. As per the Gul family, Mudasir was in the process of setting up a call centre in Altaf Bhat’s property and was residing there with his business partner Imran and their office helper from Banihal, Aamir.

Muzamil Gul, brother of the deceased, said quoting an eyewitness, the Police Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel arrived at the building in three Tavera vehicles and directed them to evacuate.

The eyewitness had not recognised the presence of a fourth individual, Gul quoted him saying.

Later, the three men were again directed to accompany the SOG personnel back inside the building, Gul quoted the eyewitness as saying. “As soon as they had stepped inside the building, the police fired upon them,” alleged Muzamil.

“My brother was no militant associate and neither was he harbouring anyone,” he said. “My brother was killed in cold blood by the police.”

Amid questions surrounding the alleged gunfight, the Jammu and Kashmir Police called for a hurried press conference on Tuesday, where the IGP Vijay Kumar, flanked by Srinagar police chief, Sandeep Chaudhary, reasserted their version of the killings.

Kumar, while acknowledging Altaf and Mudasir as civilians, said the two were injured when militants opened fire using pistols. The police, he said, fired back “in self defence” leading to the encounter.

Kumar said: “It is not sure whether militant bullets or the bullets fired by forces hit him [Altaf Bhat]. Militants were carrying pistols and it would be clear after investigations whose bullet hit him.”

Kumar added that a Special Investigation Team led by the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) will further head a probe into how the alleged encounter went down.

Kumar earlier alleged that Mudasir had provided shelter to a foreign militant Haider and his associate—office helper Aamir—and “was also involved in ferrying Haider from the recent attack site of Jamalatta (Nawakadal) Srinagar where a police man was injured.”

Kumar also said that police have recovered two pistols, magazines, besides six mobile phones and an unspecified number of computers from the site of the alleged gunfight.

Meanwhile families of the two city residents said they visited the police station several times demanding that the bodies be returned to them for proper burial but they were denied.

Citing law and order apprehensions, Kumar however said all the four were buried by authorities in north Kashmir’s Handwara. Handwara lies 80 kilometers from Srinagar in North Kashmir.

What Police Says

Police on Tuesday said that the building owner and his tenant were killed by militants in the Hyderpora area of the city while accompanying a search party towards a suspected call centre in the building.

In a statement issued here, a police spokesperson said that a joint cordon and search operation was launched by police, army’s 2RR and CRPF in Hyderpora area on a specific input regarding presence of militants in an illegal call centre in a private building in the area.

In order to show the suspect call centre in the building, the police spokesperson said, the owner of the building namely Altaf Ahmad as well as the tenant namely Mudasir Ahmad were also called to accompany the search party.

“As the search party approached towards a room in top floor of the building, the hiding terrorists started firing indiscriminately towards the party which was retaliated,” he said.

“However, in the initial exchange of fire, both the individuals accompanying search party received critical gunshot injuries and succumbed to their injuries.
In the ensuing encounter, both the terrorists hiding in the room were eliminated and their bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter,” he added.

The police identified the slain militants as Haider alias Bilal Bhai, a Pakistani national and his associate Amir Ahmad, resident of Banihal. Ahmad, police said was a hybrid militant, who was working earlier as an OGW of LeT Commander.

“Preliminary investigation revealed that the killed Mudasir Ahmad was living on rent in the said building and was working as a terrorist associate and also running an illegal call centre,” the police spokesperson said.

He said incriminating materials, arms and ammunition including 2 pistols, 3 magazines, 6 mobile phones, 1 call centre (6 cabins along with 6 computers, 6 CPUs working network, VOIP enabled) various virtual numbers of foreign numbers, dairies with alpha, beta, gamma codes, 1 US map, cabins and other equipments were recovered from the site of the encounter.

“Besides, a hideout of terrorists with warm clothes, snow boots, kitchen equipments, food packets, TV and other necessary equipments like drug bottles, cigarette packets and 04 mobile phones were also recovered,” he said, adding
“The recoveries and other digital evidences indicated that a fake call centre was established to provide logistic support to the active terrorists”.

The police spokesperson further said that investigations have revealed that Haider was involved in the recent brief shoot out at Jamalatta area of Srinagar and his associate Mudasir Ahmad facilitated his escape from said spot to this rented location in an Alto-800 car.

“Keeping in view the law and order scenario, all the dead bodies of the killed terrorists, associate and building owner have been sent to Handwara for burial purposes after completion of all medico-legal formalities. Police have registered case under relevant sections of law and further investigation from all the angles have been initiated,” he added.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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