Shopian: On the evening of March 13, it was around quarter past eight and police on its official Twitter handle updated about the starting of a military operation against militants in Rawalpora village of Shopian in south Kashmir.
Soon, officials confirmed that mixed contingents of armed forces including JK Police, Army’s 34 RR and CRPF have launched a Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) in the area following ‘specific information’ about the presence of militants.
They said that the joint team of armed forces was fired upon by militants to which they retaliated triggering the operation.
The next day, at 7:29 am, police confirmed the killing of the first militant and the operation was still on.
“Due to darkness, the operation was suspended; however, the cordon remained intact throughout night. Today in the morning, repeated announcements were again made to hiding militants to surrender, but the militants fired on joint search party which was retaliated and so far one militant identified as Jahangir Ahmad Wani, son of late Abdul Rehman Wani, a resident of Rakh Narapora Shopian, affiliated with LeT was killed,” police mentioned in the statement it issued on March 13, evening.
Police had also recovered the “arms and ammunition including the USA made M4 Carbine rifle and other incriminating materials” from the spot.
The firing had stopped for almost 24 hours and then the killing of the second militant was also announced on Twitter the next day.
“Encounter resumed in the wee hours after remaining suspended for the night hours. As the search operation was resumed, contact with the holed-up militants was again established and during the ensuing encounter one more militant was killed and his body was retrieved from the site of encounter. He has been identified as top JeM commander Vilayat Ahmad Lone alias Sajjad Afghani resident of Shopian,” police said.
Police and army had termed the killing of JeM commander Sajjad Afghani a ‘big success’ for armed forces.
Later, in a statement, police mentioned that there are a number of cases registered against the slain militant and he was involved in a number of killings.
The statement added that the slain militant was active since 08/09/2018 and was part of a group involved in “executing a series of attacks on policemen, SF and civilians”. He was also involved in attacks on “security establishments and brutal killings of civilians branding them as police/SF informers”.
Cases including FIR No. 304/2018 PS Shopian pertaining to keep people away from “Panchayat polls including blazing a Panchayat Ghar” at Kanji-ullar.
“Case FIR No 307/2018 PS Shopian pertaining to barging into the houses of police personnel, abducting and killing of SgCt Nisar Ahmad, Foll, Firdous Ahmad and SPO Kulwant Singh. Case FIR No 343/2018 PS Shopian regarding the attack on 34RR camp at Matribugh. Case FIR No. 362/2018 PS Shopian regarding abduction and killing of civilian Suhail Ahmad Ganai. Case FIR No 35/2019 PS Shopian regarding the killing of SPO Khusboo Jan and Case FIR No 45/2019 PS Shopian regarding abduction and killing of civilian Tanveer Ahmad Dar.”
Police added that the last rites of the slain shall be performed after conducting their medico-legal formalities and their nearest family members shall be allowed to participate in their last rites.
According to police, contact with the third militant was also established; however, there were no updates from police regarding the development.
However, in the three-day-long military operation, there were clashes reported, houses were burnt and many civilians sustained injuries.
Sitting on the verandah, a middle-aged woman while talking to Free Press Kashmir said that they lost everything to the military operation, “we did not take a single item out when we were told to leave the house,” she said.
“Six families bore the brunt,” said an elderly member of the same house Ghulam Mohammad Lone.
He said that six residential houses and a cow shed gutted in the fire.
“We have lost our lifetime savings, household items, our cattle flock to this military operation,” Lone lamented. “Our cow, three sheep, everything.”
Another family said that they were asked to leave the house at around 8:30, in the morning, and they were taken to a nearby house.
“We were told by the armed forces party that they will only search the house,” said Nusrat, a family member, who vividly remembers that forces told them ‘nothing will be done to their house’.
“But now, debris is the only thing left there.”
“We lost our father at an early age and we were barely managing our daily expenses,” Nusrat said, adding, who is going to take care of the family now and where will they live now.
“There was nobody in the house; they (forces) deliberately burnt our houses,” Nusrat said.
She said when they were at neighbour’s house (forces party) knocked the main door first, they shouted her teenage brother’s name and took him along. “Zia Kon Hai,” come with us.
Later, Nusrat said, her brother told them that the fire was not a result of the gunfight.
“Our brother told us that he pleaded them not to blaze their house since he is an orphan child and a lone brother of two sisters but they did not listen to him and whisked him away,” Nusrat said.
However, police in the statement mentioned that “three houses caught fire while a group of miscreants tried to disrupt the operation and created law and order problem near the encounter site during which some miscreants were also injured.”