Bashir Lashkari among slain militants | Woman among civilian victims; 30 more injured
Two militants were killed in a gunfight with government forces, even as two civilians including a woman died and 30 civilians sustained injuries in forces’ action at Brenti Batpora-Dialgam in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Saturday.
A police official said, “Two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants including commander Bashir Lashkari were killed in a gun battle with security forces this afternoon.”
“Bashir Wani alias Lashkari alias Ukasha, the LeT district commander for Anantnag hailing from Soaf–Shali village of Kokernag, carried a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head,” the official said. He identified another slain militant as Abu Maas of Pakistan.
“The killing of Bashir is a major success for us and a blow to militancy,” Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, Muneer Khan told Greater Kashmir.
Earlier, the Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid said, “Bashir was involved in the killing of a police officer (Feroz Ahmed Dar) and five other policemen in Achabal area last month. Lashkari’s killing is a major success for us, I congratulate the forces.”
Another police official said, “Joint party of Army’s 19 RR; police and paramilitary forces laid a siege around Brenti-Batpora village in Dilagam area this morning and launched searches. As the forces were zeroing in towards a few houses located amid orchards and paddy fields people came out and started pelting stones.”
He said, “Forces faced tough time confronting the protesters while at the same time ensuring militants holed up in one of the houses don’t escape.”
Locals said the family members of Bashir Ahmad Ganai (the house owner) and their relatives despite repeated announcements from police did not come out of the house. “We decided not to come out despite being insisted by militants to leave,” locals quoted shocked family members as having said.
They said, “Family members including females told the police to call the village head – then only they would leave but not without taking militants along. Till 11 a.m when the inmates along with relatives were inside the house – the militants only fired a few rounds even as government forces fired indiscriminately.”
Locals said, “The inmates were brought out by the civilians on the insistence of militants.”
“As the family members came out there was heavy exchange of fire from both sides. Choppers were pressed into service and para-troopers were called in during the operation. The forces used heavy artillery to blow up the house where the militants were holed up. IEDs were planted and the concrete house was finally razed to ground,” locals said.
IGP Muneer Khan said, “There were 17 hostages whose safety became a major challenge for forces. We ensured all are out and then launched the final assault.”
Bashir Lashkari had joined LeT in 1999 and then went across the Line of Control for training in 2001 –only to return in 2006 to be arrested by Police. He was released in 2008 – but he again joined the LeT to be arrested again. He was released in December 2014. Bashir joined LeT ranks again in 2015 and was appointed LeT district commander. He appeared in several videos that went viral on social networking sites.
THOUSANDS ATTEND LAST RITES, MILITANTS OFFER GUN SALUTE:
Nearly 20,000 people gathered at the home of Bashir Lashkari in Soaf Shali village to take part in his last rites.
People were seen marching on foot, riding on motor bikes, trucks, cabs, cars and mini buses and raising pro-freedom, pro-Pakistan, pro-Islam, pro-Lashkar and pro-Hizb slogans. However, body of Lashkari and other militant were kept in army custody at 19 RR camp in Larkipora and they did not hand it over to police till 9 p.m, sources said.
As the body reached near Hangul Gund village people in thousands were waiting there to have last glimpse of Lashkari. A funeral prayer was offered there after which body was taken to his native village.
It was announced that funeral prayers of the deceased will be offered again at his native village on Sunday at 9 a.m. after which he would be laid to rest.
Reports said that as soon as the body of the LeT commander reached his native village, militants appeared there and offered a gun salute.
WOMAN AMONG 2 CIVILIANS SHOT DEAD, 30 INJURED:
Two civilians including a woman were killed and at least 30 others injured when government forces opened fire and used pellets and teargas shells on protesters who tried to march towards the encounter site to help the militants escape.
The deceased were identified as Tahira Bano, 40, wife of Abdul Rashid Chopan of Brenti-Batpora and Tariq Ahmad (Shadab), 21, son of Ghulam Rasool Chopan of nearby Dehruna village.
“Tahira sustained bullet injury in her chest and was declared brought dead on her arrival,” doctors at District Hospital Anantnag (Islamabad) told Greater Kashmir.
Eyewitnesses said: “The exchange of fire between militants and forces had not started and only cordon was being laid when government forces directly fired at Tahira as soon as they spotted her.”
They said forces again fired towards the people injuring many, including Tariq (Shadab). “Tariq had bullet injury near his neck and was referred to SKIMS Srinagar. He, however, succumbed to his injuries there. We also received 20 more injured including three with bullet injuries and those injured by pellets,” doctors said.
They said a few of them had also sustained “assault injuries.” “All the three bullet injuries– Aaqib Teli (left leg), Junaid Ahmad (back), Jaasif Ahmad (leg) were referred to Bone and Joint and SKIMS Srinagar,” doctors said.
They said three to four pellet injuries were also shifted to SMHS. “Three among them had sustained pellets in one eye and other had multiple pellet injuries in chest,” doctors said.
Four youth, who had received firearm injuries, are undergoing treatment at SMHS hospital in Srinagar. “One youth has bullet injury in back but he is stable,” said a doctor. “The other three persons have pellet injuries in one of their eyes. They have perforations. We have given preliminary treatment to them,” the doctor added.
Ten more minor pellet and shell injuries were treated in PHCs as well as locally.
The cordon was tightened even as people from different areas Anantnag, Kokernag, Dooru, Bijbehara, Tral, Kulgam and Shopian also started marching towards Brenti-Batpora through paddy fields and joined the natives to help the militants escape. However, they were confronted by large posse of paramilitary forces, police and army who used force to disperse them. The forces also resorted to indiscriminate firing on the protesters and at least seven were hit with bullets. The people braving restrictions were seen ferrying the injured to the hospitals.
Clashes also rocked many Kokernag villages – Hillad, Dehruna, Sagam as well as Dialgam villages with reports of many injuries. “Government forces caught hold of a youth in mid twenties – identified as Irfan Khan of Laizbal locality of Islamabad town – and dragged him, stripped him naked and tied him to an armored vehicle. He was ruthlessly beaten up and then taken into custody,” locals alleged.
The JK Police men roughed up Greater Kashmir lens man Mir Wasim while he was performing his professional duties while as army men threatened him of dire consequences in case any photo of the troopers damaging houses gets published in the newspaper.
Thousands of people participated in the funeral of Tahira and Tariq (Shadab) at their native villages amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. Complete shutdown was observed in Anantnag district amid widespread clashes.
As the word about the killings spread in the adjoining Pulwama town youth took to streets and staged protests, government forces fired tear gas shells and pellets. Three persons sustained injuries.
SEARCHES IN SRINAGAR CITY:
Police said that security forces conducted searches in different parts of Srinagar city on Saturday.
“The search operations were conducted at Shupri Bagh Zakura on city outskirts, Boatman Colony Bemina, Nawa Kadal in old city and Rambagh in uptown.”
“These were routine searches as there are inputs that militants are trying to infiltrate into Srinagar,” a police official said.