Three Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists, including younger brother of a serving Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, were killed in an encounter with security forces in Shirmal village of south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Tuesday.
The encounter took place a day after three ultras were gunned down in a similar operation in Hapatnar area of central district Budgam. Clashes erupted at the site of the encounter resulting to injuries to several persons, including four journalists.
A police spokesman said that the operation was carried out on the basis of “credible inputs about the presence of terrorists” that followed a cordon and search operation jointly by police and security forces in the area.
Security sources said one of the slain terrorists was identified as Shamsul Haq Mengnoo, a resident of Draggad village in Shopian district. Mengnoo was pursuing bachelors course in Unani Medicine and Surgery (BUMS) at a Government college here before joining militancy. Belonging to a well-off family of orchardists, his elder brother Inamul Haq is a 2012 batch IPS officer, presently posted in North-East.
Security sources said soon after the cordon was intensified in Shrimal village, terrorists hiding underground in an open area tried to escape while opening fire on the security forces. During the retaliatory action, three ultras were killed.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range) Swayam Prakash Pani said the security forces conducted “two good” operations in Budgam and Pulwama district on two consecutive days. “These were difficult operations to conduct. They (terrorists) were hiding in open area,” Pani said.
A large number of protesters gathered around the encounter site in a bid to hamper the operation and help terrorists escape. Reports also said four journalists were hospitalised after they suffered pellet injuries while covering the gunfight.
They received pellets on face, neck and other body parts. Police said six security personnel were also injured in the clashes.
“Only five cases of injuries were reported and three of them were discharged after preliminary medical attention. Separately six security force personnel injured during the clashes have been discharged after medical attention,” police said in a statement.
The authorities snapped mobile internet services in the district, apparently to stop mobilisation of people in the area.
The Shopian encounter took place a day after three local cadre of Al Badr outfit were killed during an encounter at Hapatnaar village in Chrar-e-Sharif area of Central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
Meanwhile, the Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), an international body for journalists, called upon the Indian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the pellet firing at journalists.
Taking to social networking site Twitter, the RSF said the security forces’ violence’ against Kashmiri photojournalists is ‘unacceptable.’
“Unacceptable violence by #India’s security forces against photojournalists covering a gunfight in the south,” RSF tweeted.
“We call on #indian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation on this blatant attack on press freedom. #JournalismIsNotACrime,” it tweeted.
Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condemned assault on journalists covering the encounter.
Commenting on the incident, Kashmir Video Journalist Association (KVJA) in a statement said that this has become a routine that journalists while performing their professional duties are either being thrashed or showered with pellets.
The KVJA appealed to the Governor and the DGP to initiate strict action against those who were involved in Shirmal incident.
“It has been reported that the journalists were delivering their professional duties during the encounter and the protests in the area when the security forces fired pellets at them. A few photojournalists have received injuries on their faces during this incident,” the Kashmir Press Club said in a statement.