Pulwama: A complete shutdown is being observed in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on the second consecutive day over the “killing of 3 persons in Lawaypora” area of Srinagar during an “encounter” on December 30, 2020.
On Friday morning, eyewitnesses said that majority of the shops in the areas including Bello, Rajpora and Pulwama Town remained shut to mourn the killing of the trio who according to the families were killed in a “fake encounter”.
In these areas, they said public transport is off the roads; however, a thin movement of private vehicles is being observed. In Tral and Pampore areas of the district, the eyewitnesses said, shops have not been opened this morning but the vehicle movement can be seen functioning normally.
Pertinently, 0n December 30, 2020, families of three persons claimed to be “militants killed in an encounter” with a joint team of police, CRPF and Army at Lawaypora in city outskirts of Srinagar staged a protest, asserting that they were innocents.
“Yesterday at 10 am, he had tea with me and I swear about it. I don’t know where he was brought down from Sumo. Is this what is going to happen in Kashmir. Is this democracy? Is this the governor Raj? Kill me. Why you killed him. He was a student,” said Bashir Ahmad Ganie, grandfather of Aijaz Maqbool, one of the slain.
“Why was he killed? Was he a terrorist?” he asked, adding, “(Aijaz) is the son of a policeman Mohammad Maqbool Ganie who is posted in Ganderbal,” the elderly man told reporters outside PCR in Srinagar. “Tell us why our son was killed. If they don’t, let them send task force and kill us all at home,” the elderly man said.
Besides, Aijaz Mushtaq from Putrigam Pulwama, families of two others—Ather Mushtaq Wani (class 11th student as per family) son of Mushtaq Ahmad Wani from Bellow Pulwama and Zubair Ahmad Lone (carpenter) from Turkewagan Shopain—also protested and claimed they are innocents.
In this regard, the police had said, that “three unidentified militants have been killed while search operation is on. The house where militants were hiding suffered partial damage.”
The operation began after a joint team of Police, army’s 02 RR and CRPF launched a cordon and search operation in Lawaypora.
The General officer Commanding (GoC) Kilo Force H S Sahi said that three militants killed in an encounter at Lawaypora on Srinagar outskirts were planning a big strike on the highway to gain publicity.
Addressing a joint press conference at 2 RR headquarters at Zainakote, HMT, Srinagar, GoC Kilo Force said that in the past one week, five militants including a Pakistani national were killed in two separate gunfights in north Kashmir.
“Since past many days, intelligence inputs were pouring in continuously about the movement of militants on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. Yesterday, we developed leads and came to know that militants are hiding in a house right opposite to Noora hospital at Lawaypora in HMT area,” Sahi said.
“The militants fired indiscriminately at security forces and lobbed grenades as well. The operation was put on a halt due to dark but cordon layers were tightened. With the first light, the firefight again resumed and militant used heavy ammunition against security forces,” the GoC said, adding that in the ensuing gunfight three militants were killed.
In the second statement issued yesterday, police said that three “militants” were killed in a gunfight in Lawaypora area and none of them was on its list of “(militants, yet two of them were hardcore associates (OGWs) of (militants) while third one might have joined very recently.”
“On 29-12-2020, at about 05:30 PM troops of 02RR launched a Cordon and Search Operation on a specific input near Lawaypora where the (militants) hurled a grenade on the searching party and fired indiscriminately on troops while laying cordon,” a police spokesperson said.
“On receipt of this information Srinagar police immediately along with Police Component Srinagar and Valley QAT CRPF rushed to the spot,” the spokesperson said, adding, “Search party of 02 RR was heavily fired upon by the (militants) hiding inside the building which was retaliated.”
Repeated announcements were made to the hiding militants to lay down their “illegal weapons” and surrender but instead, they fired continuously upon the searching party, the spokesman said further in the statement.
“Due to darkness, the operation was suspended. However the cordon remained intact throughout the night,” the spokesman said, adding, “On the 30th morning with the first light repeated announcements were again made to hiding (militants) to surrender but the (militants) fired indiscriminately on security forces which was retaliated again, resulting in the elimination of (militants).”
The operation ended over at 11:30hrs in which all the three “hiding militants” were killed.
“Upon their search, arms (One AK 47 rifle & two pistols) and ammunition and other incriminating material along with some documents were recovered,” the spokesman said.
From the “recoveries”, the spokesman said, their identity has been established as Ajaz Maqbool Ganie, Ather Mushtaq both residents of Pulwama and Zubair Lone resident of Shopian.
The statement added: “Some families from South Kashmir came to PCR and claimed them to be their wards. They (were) sent to Ganderbal for further identification and participation in last rites in the presence of Magistrate.)”
In this connection, a case under relevant sections of law has been registered and investigation has been initiated.
“It is pertinent to mention that a few (militant) incidents have occurred in this area recently and reportedly these (militants) have also come from South Kashmir to target the convoy of security forces,” the spokesman said, adding, “Although the three killed (militants) in today’s encounter were not mentioned in our list of (militants), yet two of them are hardcore associates (OGWs) of (militants).” Pertinently, the spokesman said, one of the two was relative of top HM (Hizb) commander Rayees Kachroo who was killed in 2017.
“Reportedly, third might have joined very recently,” the spokesman said, adding, “Generally parents don’t have an idea about the activities of their wards. Several OGWs after committing (militant) crimes like grenade throwing and pistol shooting etc stay normally with their family.”
For instance, the spokesman said, “one student from Pulwama who was taking coaching in Srinagar was caught for lobbying a grenade with the help of CCTV’s footage. His parents were totally unaware of his (militant) activities.”
However, the spokesman said that “Police is investigating the case and after thorough investigation will come to the conclusion soon on merits.”
“It is pertinent to mention here that the trio killed in today’s encounter was given ample opportunity to surrender both yesterday evening and today morning but they didn’t surrender and instead fired and lobbed grenades on the search party,” the statement added.
In the third statement police issued on January 1, 2021, post further claims by the families of slain trio claiming they were not linked with militancy, it said that “technical verification of the slain trio has revealed that two among the three slain were “radically inclined and were OGWs of Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit now TRF”.
The police spokesman said that “Srinagar encounter started with army inputs and eventually fructified into a joint operation of Army, CRPF and Police.”
“After the cordon was laid, militants lobbed grenade from inside and fired upon the search party. Although as per SOP militants were repeatedly appealed by the troops to surrender in the evening and again in the morning. However, instead of surrendering, they fired upon troops and eventually got neutralised in a fire-fight,” the statement said.
“In so far as claims of the parents that Aijaz Maqbool Ganai went to the University to fill up form is concerned. The same was verified and cross-checked through the modern techniques including records of the telecom department. Contrary to the claims, the verified digital evidence revealed and corroborated that Aijaz and Ather had gone to Hyderpora and from there to the place of occurrence only.”
The statement said that similarly, Zubair had gone first to Pulwama, then Anantnag, then Shopian to Pulwama and finally came to the place of occurrence.
“Background check also reveals that Aijaz and Ather Mustaq, both OGWs variously provided logistic support to militants. Antecedents and verifications too show that both were radically inclined and had aided of LeT (now so-called TRF) outfit, militants,” the statement said.
It said that one of OGW presently under police custody has also corroborated Aijaz’s association with LeT militant Faisal Mustaq Baba who was killed in Meej (Pampore) military operation in June last year. Pertinently, Ather was relative and OGW of HM top commander Rayees Kachroo who got killed in the year 2017.
“Nevertheless police is investigating into the case from all possible angles,” the statement added.