It was the second such clash between militants and security forces since the Centre called off the conditional Ramzan ceasefire.
Srinagar: The authorities on Friday claimed that four militants killed in a gunfight with the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s southern Anantnag district could be affiliated to the Islamic State (ISIS).
DGP Shesh Paul Vaid said it was a big breakthrough against the militants. Asked if the slain men were ISIS members, as claimed by another senior security forces officer, he told this newspaper: “They were inspired by the ideology of the IS online”.
Mr Vaid had earlier tweeted: “Terrorists reportedly affiliated to ISJK (Islamic State Jammu Kashmir) killed.”
One policeman and a civilian were also killed in the clash, raising the toll to six, whereas several people were injured in clashes with the security forces near the encounter site in Khiram village of the Srigufwara area of Anantnag.
The officials said the fighting erupted at 5.30 am and continued for several hours. It was the second such clash between militants and security forces since the Centre called off the conditional Ramzan ceasefire.
Giving details of the clash, a police spokesman said that pursuing “credible leads” about thepresence of militants in the Khiram area, a cordon-and-search operation was launched by a joint team of the Army, CRPF and J&K police’s counter-insurgency Special Operations Group (SOG) around dawn on Friday.
“As the joint patrol made an advance towards the suspected house, terrorists hiding inside fired indiscriminately on the security forces, due to which a policeman Ashiq Hussain and a civilian identified as Muhammad Yousuf Rather, aged 53, a resident of Nowshahar Khiram, were hit and later succumbed to their injuries,” the spokesman said.
He added: “Consequently some more civilians also got injured and were shifted to hospital.”
The police identified the slain militants as Dawood Ahmed Sofi, Majid Manzoor Dar, Aadil Rehman Bhat and Muhammad Ashraf Itoo. The officials believed 33-year-old Dawood Sofi alias Dawood Salfi alias Burhan, a resident of Srinagar’s Zainakote area, was the chief of “ISJK”.
The police said he was involved in a number of stone-pelting cases before joining the terror outfit. “He was involved in a terror attack which resulted in the death of ASI Ghulam Mohammad and head constable Naseer Ahmad at Bagh-Ali-Mardan Khan in Zadibal area of Srinagar and also in the killing of a policeman and snatching his rifle at Tengpora Batamaloo (Srinagar), besides other terror attacks,” a statement issued by the police said.
It added that Dar of Talangam (Pulwama district) had also joined the “terror gang” and remained active along with Bhat of Shettipora Bijbehara (Anantnag) and Itoo of Hatigam Srigufwara (Anantnag).
The statement said initially Dawood Salfi was known to be affiliated with the Tehrik-ul-Mujahideenr outfit. “This terror gang was active on the social media and mostly attacked policemen on duty at different places. The social media profiling and inputs indicate that they were inspired by the ISIS module,” the statement said, adding that incriminating material and a huge quantity of ammunition were also seized from the site of the encounter.
The Army added that the militants were hiding in a private house at Sirhama, and when the joint party of the security forces zeroed in on it, it was fired upon by the former, triggering the encounter.
“Two terrorists were killed in the retaliatory fire. While the search operations in the adjoining area were intensified, terrorists hiding in a ‘nullah’ fired at the security forces. Two more terrorists were killed in the ensuing firefight,” a defence spokesman said.
An earlier report said the owner of the house where the militants were hiding and his wife were injured in the crossfire. Witnesses said two local youth who were identified as Burhan Shafi and Shahid Ahmed received bullet injuries near the encounter site. Another civilian identified as Ubaid Ahmed of Kai Kalan village was also injured in reported clashes in the area.
The authorities suspended Internet services in Srinagar and Anantnag “as a precautionary measure” as the fighting raged at Khiram.
Police sources here said a search operation was also launched in neighbouring Mehand after receiving inputs about the presence of militants in the village.
In a separate incident, at least, eight policemen were hurt in a militant attack in Tral township in Pulwama.
The officials said a joint party of the J&K police and CRPF was handling a law and order situation along Tral’s Court Road when militants hurled a grenade towards it and also opened fire, injuring eight personnel. “Militants mingled in a crowd lobbed a grenade and then opened fire on the security forces when they were busy with law and order duties in the area,” a police spokesman said. Hospital sources said nine policemen were injured.
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, while claiming responsibility for the attack, said police personnel were targeted as they were “suppressing” local people. “We did it because they were on way to suppress people. Over a dozen personnel were injured, some critically,” Hizb spokesman Burhanuddin told CNS, a local news agency.