At least six civilians including a 15-year-old boy were killed in an explosion that took place after a gunfight between government forces and militants in Laroo area of southern Kulgam district left three Jaish-e-Muhammad rebels dead on Sunday, triggering massive protests and clashes and a shutdown call for Monday by the Joint Resistance Leadership. More than 25 persons were injured after forces fired live ammunition on protesters in Anantnag and Kulgam areas.
A police official said a gunfight raged between forces and militants holed up inside a house in Laroo village, 4-kms from Kulgam town, at around 5 am.
“Forces comprising special operations group of J&K police, army and Central Reserve Police Force had laid a siege in the village following inputs about presence of militants,” the official said, adding that the siege turned into a fierce exchange of fire between militants and forces for at least five hours. After 10 am, the guns fell silent, he said.
“Three army soldiers were injured in the firing and were evacuated to army’s base hospital in Srinagar,” the official said. He said the bodies of three militants were recovered from the encounter site and were identified as Shahid-ul-Islam Tantray from Wangam village in Shopian, YazilMakroo from Arwani area in Bijbehara (Anantnag) and Zubair Lone from Ahwatoo village in DH Pora area of Kulgam. All the slain militants were affiliated with Jaish-e-Muhammad, the official said.
LOUD EXPLOSION & DEATHS
Eyewitnesses told Greater Kashmir that before forces retreated from Laroo, they allegedly set on fire the house where the militants were holed up. “The gunfight ended at around 10 am. Soon thereafter, people started assembling at the encounter site and few of them tried to douse the flames. At around 11.30 am, there was a loud blast near veranda of the house,” said a photojournalist who was covering the gunfight when the explosion occurred.
Another freelance photographer, who was also at the site, said: “I along with a few more photojournalists rushed towards the blast site. We saw a person, whose both hands had been ripped apart by the blast, being evacuated from the site. Another person’s chest bones were visible, while the third one had a deep wound in his head and blood was oozing from it.” Amid chaotic scenes around, he said for next 10 minutes, there were only a few people including photojournalists trying to attend to the injured persons.
“We started shouting for help and soon, people came and started taking the injured to hospitals,” the photographer said.
The witnesses said that the injured were evacuated to district hospital Kulgam where three of them were declared dead on arrival.
“Four more injured in the blast were referred to Srinagar hospitals. However, three among them later succumbed,” they said.
The deceased civilians—all from Kulgam district—were identified as Irshad Ahmad Pader and Tajamul Ahmad (both hailing from Shurat village); TalibMaqboolLaway and Mansoor Dar (both hailing from Laroo), Uzair Ahmad Dar from Reshipora and Ubaid Shah from Makenpora village. “Two of the injured succumbed at SMHS hospital in Srinagar and one referred to SKIMS also died later,’ a health official said, adding that all of them had blast injuries.
25 INJURED IN PROTESTS
At least 25 people were injured in protests that erupted during and after the gunfight at Laroo. “People hurled stones on forces personnel who in turn lobbed shells and later fired bullets and pellets to disperse them,” a witness said. “We received three persons with bullet injuries and eight with pellet injuries,” a doctor at district hospital Anantnag told Greater Kashmir. He said two of the injured had bullet injuries in abdomen while four had pellets in eyes and were shifted to Srinagar. In Kulgam district hospital, a doctor said that seven more injured, mostly with pellet and bullet wounds, were brought there. Four of them were referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment, he said.
Meanwhile, amid pro-freedom and anti-India sloganeering, all six civilians and three militants were laid to rest at their native villages in Kulgam, Bijbehara and Shopian. “It was a doomsday at Kulgam,” said a group of residents from Laroo. Thousands of people participated in funeral prayers of slain militant Shahid-ul-Islam Tantray at his native village in Wangam area of Shopian district. As the word about Tantray’s death in the Laroo gunfight spread, people from far-off places converged at his native village SudershanPora to participate in his last rites.
After six rounds of funeral prayers, Tantray was laid to rest amid pro-freedom sloganeering. Tantray (21) had joined militancy on 14 July this year and was a Hafiz-e-Quran, one who has memorised the entire Holy Book. Meanwhile, a group of militants surfaced during the funeral and offered him a gun salute. Internet and mobile phone services in the district were suspended soon after the gunfight erupted, while train service from Srinagar towards Banihal was also suspended. The forces imposed strict restrictions in Kulgam town and adjoining villages to foil any attempts of protests.
JeM PAYS TRIBUTE
Jaish-e-Muhammad has paid tributes to three militants of the outfit and six civilians killed in Kulgam on Sunday, local news agency GNS quoted a JeM spokesperson saying in a statement. “Every drop of the blood spilled in Kashmir will be avenged. Jaish-e-Muhammad will avenge on behalf of their oppressed Kashmiri brethren,” the spokesperson said, and expresses solidarity with families of slain militants and civilians.
ADVISOR, DGP ANGUISHED OVER CIVILIAN KILLINGS
Advisor to governor on security affairs, K Vijay Kumar, and director general of police Dilbag Singh Sunday expressed deep anguish and regret over loss of civilian lives in a blast near a gunfight site in Laroo, Kulgam. In a joint statement, Kumar and Singh expressed heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families who lost their dear ones “in this tragic incident.” “As per reports, the civilians rushed to the site after the encounter was over, resulting in casualties in the blast as the area was yet to be sanitised,” they said in the statement, and urged the civilians to “avoid such sites till they are properly sanitised.”
In a statement, a police spokesman said: “In Kulgam encounter three militants of JeM were killed. In the aftermath of the encounter a large congregation entered the encounter site before it was cleared and led to an explosion in which six people died.” “Moreover after the conclusion of encounter, as the forces moved out, locals started assembling at the site of encounter and had apparently fiddled with some stray explosive materials leading to an explosion. Consequently some individuals sustained grievous injuries and some of the injured identified as Ubaid Shah, Tajamul, Irshad Ahmad Padder, Uzair Ahmad and Masroor Ahmad unfortunately succumbed when brought to hospitals. Five other injured are undergoing treatment. It is pertinent to mention that this incident occurred post encounter,” the statement read, adding: “Citizens are requested not to visit any encounter site until the site is sanitised by the bomb disposal team. We seek cooperation of people in this regard for avoiding accidents of such nature.” Police have registered a case and investigation has been initiated, the statement read.
ARMY CONDOLES CIVILIAN DEATHS
The army expressed its condolences to bereaved families of civilians who died in an explosion at Laroo in Kulgam district on Sunday. “Chinar Corps conveys heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of civilians who died in post operation blast at the encounter site,” army spokesman in Srinagar, colonel Rajesh Kalia said in a statement.
IUST, BOSE POSTPONE EXAMS
The class 12 examination scheduled on Monday (October 22) in Kashmir division is postponed, director school education Kashmir G N Itoo said. “The fresh dates for deferred exam will be issued separately, later,” he said. A spokesman of BOSE said the examination will be held as per schedule in Leh and Kargil besides winter zones of Jammu.
“The exam has been postponed for Kashmir division only,” he said. Meanwhile, authorities at Islamic University of Science and Technology have also postponed the exams scheduled for Monday.
“The dates for deferred exams will be notified later separately,” a spokesman of the varsity said, adding that the classwork will also remain suspended in the varsity on Monday. Also, authorities at Kashmir University (KU) rescheduled the examination of BG 1st semester slated on Monday. “The examination of the papers of BG 1st semester which was scheduled to be held on Monday (22-10-2018) has been rescheduled and shall now be conducted on Wednesday 24-10-2018,” a varsity spokesperson said. He said there will be no change in other examinations scheduled for Monday. Meanwhile, nocturnal protests erupted in KU main campus against civilian and militant killings in Kulgam district.
The students from Zakura campus assembled in the main campus and were later joined by hostel boarders of MA and MAK Boys hostel.
The protesting students were shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. The students also held a candle march and offered funeral prayers in absentia for slain civilians and militants. (With GulazarBhat in Shopian)
Pak Minister condemns Kulgam killings
Minister of Kashmir Affairs and GilgitBaltistan Ali Amin Gandapur on Sunday condemned killing of six civilians and three militants in Kulgam district. “The world community should take a note of the atrocities on innocent Kashmiris. World should raise its voice on this barbaric treatment,” ARY NEWS quoted Pakistan minister as having said.