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5 LeT, Hizb militants killed in Kulgam gunfight; civilian killed, dozens injured in protests

(REP)

SRINAGAR

Five Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizb ul Mujahideen (Hizb) militants, including the one involved in last year’s deadly attack on a cash van in which five policemen and two bank guards lost their lives, were killed in an encounter Saturday in Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.

A civilian was killed and at least 22 others injured in clashes near the encounter site when protesting youths started pelting stones at the security forces, an official said.

Reports quoting health officials at district hospital Anantnag said that twenty-two injured were brought to the facility for treatment.

“Five among them, two with firearm and three with pellet injury in eyes, were referred to Srinagar for specialized treatment,” they said.

Earlier, massive clashes erupted near the site of a gunfight in Chowgam area.

Reports said that youth took to streets as soon as the news of gunfight spread in the area. They said the protesters pelted the forces with stones to disrupt the operation.

The forces, they said, fired live ammunition and pellets to disperse the stone pelting mob.

A civilian identified as Rouf Ahmad Ganaie, son of Saleem Ganaie of Al Farooq Colony Anchidora was critically injured after being hit by a bullet near the gunfight site.

Ganaie was rushed to a hospital in Srinagar with a bullet injury to his neck, but succumbed en route.

A a joint team of army and Special Ops Group (SOG) of state police had launched a cordon-and-search operation late on Friday night in Chowgam area of Qazigund in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district based on inputs about the presence of militants in the area, a police spokesman said.

He said during the search operation, militants fired on the search party.

“First, the civilians were moved away from the site of encounter to safer locations. Security forces then engaged the militants,” the spokesman said.

He said in the ensuing gunfight, five militants were killed.

“This was a group of militants belonging to proscribed outfits Hizb and LeT,” the spokesman said.

He said the killed militants were identified as Gulzar Ahmad Paddar alias Saif, a resident of Adijan, Kulgam, Faisal Ahmad Rather alias Dawood (Yamrach, Kulgam), Zahid Ahmad Mir alias Hashim (Okey, Kulgam), Masroor Molvi alias Abu Darda (Fatehpora, Anantnag); and Zahoor Ahmad Lone alias Rehman Bhai (Kulgam).

The spokesman said Paddar was a close associate of Altaf Kachroo, a top HM commander who was killed in an encounter in Anantnag last month.

“Paddar was involved in a series of attacks including the killings of five police personnel at Pambay last year (on May 1) along with two bank employees,” the spokesman said, referring to the attack on a cash van.

Militants had then pulled five police personnel and two bank employees out of the van and shot them at point blank range, the spokesman said.

He said Paddar was also involved in the killing of a special police officer at Krewan Chidder in Kulgam.

“Besides, he was involved in looting police guards at Damhaal and weapon snatching cases reported across Kulgam and many other bank robbery cases attempted in the area,” the spokesman said.

Mir was wanted for his involvement in the killing of policeman Fayaz Ahmad of Zainapora on Eid last month, he said, adding Rather was involved in the killing of policeman Gowhar Ahmad in Shopian last year.

“Lone and Molvi were involved in a series of militant offences besides recruitment bid in the locality,” the spokesman said.

Arms and ammunition were also seized from the site of encounter, the spokesman said.

Clashes broke out near the site of the encounter as groups of youths started pelting stones at the forces, leading to the death of one civilian and injuries to 10 others, a police official said.

Security forces used tear smoke shells, pellets and opened fire to quell the protests, he said.

Train services between Baramulla and Qazigund and mobile internet services in Anantnag and Kulgam were suspended by authorities who feared law and order problems after the encounter.

(WITH PTI INPUTS)

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