July 2001 News

Thousands mourn killing of Kashmiri militants

31 July 2001
The Times of India

Goigan: Thousands of Muslims, some vowing vengeance, took to the streets on Tuesday in Goigam village of north Kashmir to mourn three militants shot dead in a Kashmir shrine by security forces. In one of the biggest funeral processions in Kashmir in recent years, some 15,000 people from nearby villages and towns poured into Goigam, where the militants were killed on Monday after barricading themselves in the mosque. Shouting: ''We want freedom'' and Allah-o Akbar (God is Greatest), the Kashmiri Muslims carried the three corpses on stretchers, with women showering flower petals and dried fruits over the bodies. The corpses were placed in the middle of a huge ground, surrounded by walnut trees and sprawling paddy fields. Women pulled their hair and men beat their chests in traditional displays of bereavement. Goigam, 40 kilometers north of Srinagar, witnessed the tense 12-hour standoff on Monday when Indian forces ringed around the mosque where the three militants had barricaded themselves. The siege ended when Indian sharpshooters closed in on the shrine and blasted the guerrillas with automatic weapons, killing them instantly, according to police. Some Muslim militants attended the procession on Tuesday, kissing the foreheads of their slain comrades and vowing to fight on. ''He was our hero,'' one militant said of Mustafa Khan, a top commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, who was killed in the encounter. Carrying an AK rifle under a shawl, another militant said: ''Khan''s death is a setback to our group. We will avenge his death soon.'' But security forces in the area breathed a sigh of relief upon news that Khan had been eliminated. ''He was the most wanted militant in north Kashmir,'' said R P Singh, a top border guard official, adding that Khan had taken part in more than 50 attacks against security forces. ''It is a massive achievement in recent years,'' Singh said of the operation. In Goigam, however, many expressed anger at security forces for having ''desecrated'' the shrine, which houses the graves of two saints. ''They should have allowed the militants to leave the shrine without any harm,'' said Abdul Aziz, whose house was occupied by the troops during the standoff. An AFP photographer at the site said the shrine''s walls had suffered bullet marks and empty cartridges and glass panes were scattered all around it. Officials, however, said they took care not to damage the mosque. ''During the entire operation we had ensured the safety of the shrine,'' Singh said, ''and we succeeded in that.''


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