In two separate gunfights, 14-year-old among five militants dead in south Kashmir

The newly recruited militant was given enough opportunity to come out, but other militants refused to let him surrender, according to IGP Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir Police on Sunday said that five militants, including a teenager, were killed in two separate encounters in southern Kashmir.

Three of the five were killed in Shopian district’s Chitragam area, and two others in Anantnag district’s Semthan, Bijbehara area.

One of the slain militants, a 14-year-old Faisal Gulzar, was a newcomer to militancy. He had joined militant ranks just five days ago, after which his family had appealed him to return home through videos shared on social media sites.

Three militants were killed in orchards between Reban, Bandpawa, and Chitragam villages in Shopian district, according to a senior police officer.

“One militant was killed on Saturday evening after they repeatedly refused security forces’ surrender offers,” the official added, saying that the teenager’s family was taken to the encounter site to persuade their son to surrender. The newly-recruited militant initially accepted to surrender but was denied the opportunity by the other insurgents, and later he refused the surrender proposal himself.”

According to him, on detailed intelligence about the presence of insurgents in the area, a joint team of J&K Police, Indian Army’s 34 RR, and CRPF launched a Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) in Chitragam village on Saturday.

He said that when the joint team of government forces approached the suspicious location, the hiding militants opened fire, prompting a retaliation, resulting in a gun-battle.

According to J&K Police, when the location of militants was ascertained during the searches, they were given the opportunity to surrender. However, they opened fire indiscriminately on the joint team of government forces.

One militant was killed in the initial retaliatory fire, but the action was halted to give the trapped militants another chance to surrender, according to the police statement.

“To convince a holed-up militant, teenage Faisal Gulzar, to surrender, the joint teams exerted utmost caution and encouraged the involvement of family members of the militant at the encounter spot. Despite repeated pleas from his relatives and promises from security forces, the other militants refused to let him surrender. Ultimately, during the fierce gunfight in the early hours of the morning, both the trapped militants were killed, and the remains of all three killed militants were retrieved from the encounter site,” the statement added.

Aasif Ahmad Ganie and Faisal Gulzar Ganie, both residents of Chitragam Kalan, were killed, according to police. The identity of the third militant killed, on the other hand, is still unknown.

According to police reports, they were members of organisations wanted in several militancy-related cases and affiliated to the banned Al-Badr outfit.

Arms and ammunition, including one AK-56 rifle, two handguns, and other incriminating materials, were recovered from the site of the encounter, police claims, adding that all recovered materials have been registered into case records for further investigation and to investigate their role in any related offences.

The last rites of the slain militants will be conducted at Handwara after medico-legal formalities have been completed, and only their immediate family members will be allowed to attend.

In a statement about the Semthan, Bijbehara encounter, police said that a joint operation was conducted yesterday by J&K Police, the 3 RR of the Indian Army, and the CRPF’s 90Bn based on a specific police intelligence about the location of two militants hiding in a house at Semthan village of Bijbehara area of Anantnag district.

In the statement, a police spokesman said that while searching the target building, gunmen hiding inside opened indiscriminate fire on the search parties, prompting retaliation.

All people caught in the gunfire were evacuated to safety during the subsequent encounter, and the operation was suspended for the night, the spokesman said.

“While ensuring all civilians are safe, the operation was resumed today morning and both the militants got killed in the exchange of fire. They were given ample opportunities to surrender and face the law. Two AK series rifles and other arms and ammunition were recovered from the possession of killed militants,” he said.

Towseef Ahmad Bhat, son of Mohammad Ramzan, of Takia Maqbool Shah Bijbehara, and Aamir Hussain Ganie, son of Ab Rashid, of Goriwan Bijbehara, Anantnag, were among the militants killed. Towseef has been involved in militancy since 2017 while Aamir entered the militant ranks in 2018, as per the police statement.

“Both of them were wanted in many crimes including in the killing of an off-duty Territorial Army solider Mohamamd Saleem Akhoon who was killed by them near his home in Goriwan Bijbehara on Friday. After this incident, round the clock track teams set out to track them down to bring them to justice. The teams finally zeroed them in, resulting in the encounter,” said the spokesman.

Meanwhile, IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar has once again appealed to all “misguided” youth who have joined militant ranks to abandon the ‘path of violence’ and return to mainstream society, as the society and, most importantly, their parents, need them. He went on to say, “With open arms, we will embrace and acknowledge them.”

The newly recruited militant was given enough opportunity to come out, but other militants refused to let him surrender, according to IGP Kashmir.

Since the outbreak of the two gunfights yesterday, internet services in the districts of Shopian, Kulgam, and Anantnag have been suspended as a ‘precaution’.

It is worth noting that 36 militants have been killed in various encounters so far this year, with 19 of them belonging to the Shopian district alone.

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