M A I N   N E W S

Sopore gunbattle ends, Harkat militants escape
Third such incident in Kashmir within 10 days
Tribune News Service and PTI

Srinagar, January 31
A self-styled commander of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and his associate escaped after engaging the security forces in a gunbattle in Sopore town of Baramulla district, a senior police officer said here today.

“On specific information that self-styled commander of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Basharat Saleem, alias Atif, son of Bashir Ahmed, was hiding at New Colony locality of Sopore, 55 km from here, along with another militant, in his house in the New Colony locality in Sopore, the security forces cordoned off the area”, DIG, Baramulla (Kupwara Range), Abdul Qayoom Manhas told The Tribune.

A search operation was launched to arrest the militants who opened fire and after engaging the security forces in a gun battle shifted to another house from where they again started firing. The security personnel returned the fire after evacuating inmates of the house. “The safety of the inmates was of prime concern. So, first they were evacuated and then the operation was launched again,” the DIG said.

The gunfight continued throughout the night, but to divert the attention of the security forces, the militants threw hand grenades and set the house on fire. Later, they managed to give the slip to search parties comprising the police, the Rashtriya Rifles and the CRPF, Manhas said.

An AK assault rifle, three magazines with 90 rounds of cartridges, two hand grenades and a laptop were found at the scene of the gun battle, he said.

“The operation was called off this morning,” Manhas said.

This is the third time that militants have managed to escape after breaking the security cordon in Kashmir within the past 10 days. Earlier, five militants had given the slip to the security forces after exchanging fire with them in Kulgam and Pulwama districts on January 23. A civilian was killed in the Pulwama encounter that triggered massive protests as the local people accused the security forces of using the deceased as a “human shield”, prompting authorities to order a probe.

Meanwhile, official sources said groups of youths took to streets in Sopore town soon after the cordon was lifted this morning and indulged in stone throwing on the police and paramilitary forces, alleging that there was no militant present in the area and the encounter was staged to harass residents.

Policemen fired a few teargas shells and also used batons to chase away the protesters, sources said, adding clashes were still continuing at six places in the town.

Youth’s death triggers clashes

Violent clashes broke out in various localities across Srinagar after a youth was killed after being hit by a teargas shell on Sunday evening. The police fired teargas shells after clashes broke out between it and stone-throwing protesters near Gani Stadium in the Rajouri Kadal area in the old city. The injured youth was rushed to the SKIMS, where he succumbed to his injuries. Six others were also injured in the incident. Meanwhile, as the news about the death of the youth spread, tension gripped various localities where angry people came on the streets and held protests. — TNS



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