Violent Protests In Kashmir

7 August 2015
The Citizen
Jehangir Ali

Srinagar: Forces fired aerial shots on Friday to disperse violent protesters in Kakpora village of Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district where an alleged Lashkar-e-Tayaba commander was killed in an encounter with security forces yesterday while two others managed to escape. Ahead of the funeral, a large crowd of people, shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, staged a protest in Kakpora against the killing of the militant, a local named Talib Ahmad Shah, who was the district commander of Lashkar for Pulwama. The slain militant had a post-graduate degree in Physical Education. He belongs to a well-off family. His father is a government employee in R&B Department and the family owns large tracts of apple orchards. Talib had joined Lashkar in 2012, reportedly after relentless raids and harassment by forces for his alleged involvement in stone pelting during the 2010 civilian unrest in Kashmir Valley. On Friday morning, clashes broke out between the forces and protesters who had imposed curfew-like restrictions in the area during which incidents of stone-pelting were reported. To disperse the crowds, police and paramilitary troopers fired aerial shots and tear-gas shells during which some protesters reportedly suffered injuries. Earlier on Thursday, three LeT militants had taken refuge inside a house in Astan Mohalla of Kakpora following which a siege was laid around the locality and a house-to-house search operation was carried out by J&K Police's counter-insurgency unit police, Army's 50 RR and CRPF personnel. 'While the search operation was going on, the militants opened fire at the search party, triggering the gun-battle,' the official said. In the initial exchange of gunfire, the LeT commander, Talib Ahmad Shah, was killed while two other militants managed to escape from the house. The Army sources said two militants including the divisional commander of LeT identified as Abu Qasim were with Talib but they managed to escape and took refuge inside another house where a fresh encounter began on Thursday evening. The forces used Improvised Explosive Devices and blasted three house but the militants continued to fire at them. Meanwhile, as the cordon-and-search operation was underway on Thursday evening, residents of the area started massive protests and pelted stones at the forces who retaliated by lobbing teargas and pepper gas shells. A J&K police official said the protesters tried to break the cordon around the house where the militants were holed up. In the ensuing clashes, a protester identified as Lateef Ahmad of Qazigund Pulwama, was injured after a teargas shell hit his abdomen. He was rushed to hospital but his condition is stated to be stable. The two militants managed to escape from the area, taking advantage of the darkness, following which the search operation was called off on Friday morning. The situation remains tense with sporadic incidents of stone pelting reported from some localities in Pulwama district. Authorities have imposed restriction, especially in the native village of the slain militant where preparations are underway for his funeral. Meanwhile, two police officials were injured when militants attacked a police post in Basantgarh area of Udhampur district later Thursday evening. The injured cops were identified as Gul Mohammad and Rajesh Kumar. A J&K Police officer said a group of four to five militants struck at the police post at about 9 pm. 'The policemen present at the post also retaliated and the exchange of fire was going on till midnight. However, they managed to escape and disappeared from the area,' he said. A large contingent of Army, CRPF and police teams have been rushed to the area and a search operation is being carried out to nab the suspects. The attack came a day after the militants ambushed a convoy of forces, killing two BSF jawans, before one of them was shot dead and another was captured alive.