The fire fight took place in Srinagar’s densely populated Dana Mazaar locality.
SRINAGAR: Two Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militants, one of them serving as the outfit’s ‘divisional commander,’ were killed in a 10-hour-long gunfight with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar on Tuesday. Five security personnel were injured, one of them critically, in the clash.
Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, termed it as a major success of the security forces combating a three-decade old insurgency in J&K and confirmed that among the slain is Junaid Ashraf Khan, son of prominent separatist leader and amir of Tehrik-e-Hurriyat party Muhammd Ashraf Sehrai who is a close confidante of Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
The other militant killed with him during the fire fight in Srinagar’s densely populated Dana Mazaar locality has been identified as Tariq Ahmed Sheikh, a resident of southern Pulwama district.
Junaid went missing on March 23, 2018 after he left his Srinagar home to offer Friday prayers at a nearby mosque. Next day, the family reported the matter to the police but soon a photograph showing 26-year-old Junaid, who had done MBA from University of Kashmir, holding an AK 47 assault rifle went viral on social media. The message posted with it said that Junaid had joined Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the frontline indigenous militant group.
The fighting broke out overnight after the security forces laid siege to Dana Mazaar on receiving intelligence input about the presence of the militant duo in a private house which was being used as a hideout. Soon after the fighting ended, people in large numbers took to the streets to protest. The police used force to disperse them, which led to clashes between stone-pelting mobs and security forces in the neighbourhood, the witnesses said.
Some of the residents alleged that the security forces looted gold ornaments and other valuables from their home after they had fled to safety. The authorities strongly denied it and said that the security forces, in fact, evacuated several families to safety to avoid harm coming to them. “It being a congested area, the J&K police together with the CRPF before launching the operation to flush out terrorists, evacuated people living in the nearby houses to safe locations,” said a police officer.
A resident said that the security forces arrived in the areas at around 2 am. Shortly after the area was brought under siege, mobile internet and mobile telephony services, except on BSNL post-paid, were snapped in Srinagar. Fighting broke out between the holed up militants and the security forces, soon.
The locals said that the J&K police and CRPF fired bombs and also used automatic weapons in the fight assault against holed up militants, causing destruction of the private house and damage to a few more. The police sources confirmed that the house in which the militants were hiding was blasted. DG police said that two weapons and ammunition were also recovered from the site of the encounter.
Though several parts of Kashmir Valley, particularly southern districts, have witnessed encounters between the security forces and militants routinely, it was the first such clash in Srinagar. The last time the city witnessed a fire fight between security forces and militants was in October 2018, in which top Lashkar-e-Tayyaba commander Merajuddin Bangroo was killed along with his close associate Faiz Ahmed Waza and the owner of the house in which the militant duo was hiding.