Highlights:

  • Inspector general (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar noted that the gun battle was triggered as security forces initiated an operation
  • He asserted that the forces knocked the doors of the rooms but nobody came out before the terrorists holed up there fired with pistols
  • The latest gun battle evolved as security forces have intensified anti-insurgency operations

On Tuesday, the Jammu and Kashmir police informed that the owner of a building, where two terrorists were among four people killed in an exchange of fire with security forces in Srinagar’s Hyderpora on Monday, was being counted as an “over-ground worker (OGW)” as his premises was used to harbour terrorist.

Police claimed that Altaf Ahmad Dar, the owner, was gunned down in a cross-firing even after his family asserted that he was killed in cold blood and used as a human shield. They noted “law and order issues” and said Mudassir Gul, another alleged OGW killed in the gun battle, and Dar were buried in Handwara, nearly 70 km away, without the participation of their families.

Inspector general (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar noted that the gun battle was triggered as security forces initiated an operation after receiving input about the presence of two to three terrorists at Hyderpora. He continued, “We did not know the exact location. So, the owner of the building…Dar and Gul, whom its top floor was rented out to, were called to show the location.”

Vijay Kumar asserted that the forces knocked on the doors of the rooms but nobody came out before the terrorists holed up there fired with pistols. Both the civilians got injured in the firing. The encounter was halted and efforts were made to rescue the injured persons but they got trapped in the location and died.

Kumar recognized one of the two terrorists killed in the gun battle as Bilal Bhai alias Hyder, who is alleged to be a Pakistani. The second terrorist is from Ramban in the Jammu region and his family has been called for identification through photographs. DNA samples from the bodies of both the militants have been taken.

Kumar further added that they met the families of Dar and Gul and asked for their participation in their burial. “Due to law-and-order problems, the bodies were not handed over to the families and buried at Handwara”, he explained.

He continued that Dar rented three rooms of his building to Gul, a contractor by profession who allegedly operated a fake call centre. He remarked, “There were six cabins at the call centre and also a hideout for the militants in one room. We recovered a large quantity of material from the place including two pistols, three magazines, six mobiles from the militants and four mobile phones from rooms, six computers, six CPU’s maps of the USA, warm clothes, kitchen equipment, drug, television, an injection used by terrorists.”

He claimed that Gul brought a terrorist to the hideout as the latter shot at a policeman. Kumar said Gul was allegedly functioning as a module of terrorists and was bringing them from other parts of Kashmir. He explained that since the hideout was in the building of Dar, he will be identified as an overground worker for harbouring militants. He expressed that they tried to save him but as the firing continued from both sides, Dar could not be saved.

Kumar mentioned that Gul was a top-ranked OGW and associated with militancy. A special team has been established to assess the records of the call centre. “It was a security and intelligence lapse that on the national highway (in Hyderpora), such a hideout was situated, where the militants used to visit frequently. We will be looking for similar hideouts.”

On Monday, Dar’s family organised a demonstration, asking his body for burial and blaming the police for killing him. Taking to Twitter, Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party urged for a speedy probe into Dar’s killing. It wrote, “These allegations are grave and merit speedy investigation. Least@JmuKmrPolice could do is hand over the dead body to the family for a decent burial. Are even dead ones a threat to peace now?”

The latest gun battle evolved as security forces have intensified anti-insurgency operations since 11 civilians were killed in a spate of aimed attacks a past month. A policeman and a salesman were gunned down this month.

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