Imam shot, 5 militants killed
20 October 2006
The Daily Excelsior
Excelsior Special Correspondent
Srinagar: With a mass protest over a midnight assault on the Imam of a mosque in Rajbagh area of this capital city, Police and CRPF today eliminated two militants of Al-Badar outfit at the residence of a Sub Inspector of Police in Shalimar area. Meanwhile, one boy died and another sustained critical injuries in a grenade blast in Lolab valley of Kupwara district and three more militants have been killed in Gurez-Machhil area of the same district in north Kashmir. Residents in the posh Rajbagh area told the EXCELSIOR that a CRPF soldier fired upon the Imam of Usmaniya Masjid in Pathan Bagh locality, near Modern Hospital, late last night. Identified as Mohammad Altaf Shah S-o Mohammad Yusuf Shah R-o Sheeri, Baramulla, the Imam sustained a gunshot wound and collapsed in a pool of blood. He was evacuated and admitted at SMHS Hospital where doctors removed his bullet in an hour-long surgery and described him as stable this evening. Residents said that the Imam in early 30s had been living in a rented room close to the mosque with his young wife. They said that he had been conducting the mass prayers at the mosque and simultaneously pursuing his studies at University of Kashmir, Hazratbal. Initially the residents suspected that a militant had fired upon the Imam and left him wounded. However, in the morning today, about a thousand people gathered in the locality and they began holding the CRPF responsible for opening fire. They shouted slogans against security forces and alleged that a 'ghastly assault' had been carried out on the Imam on Jumatul Vida, the last Friday of the holy month of Ramazan. They demanded registration of a murder case against CRPF, a judicial inquiry, identification and punishment to the culprit. However, they did not specify any motive behind the shootout. As the gathering squatted over Abdullah Bridge on the Jhelum and disrupted the vehicular traffic movement, Police swung into action with baton charge and tearsmoke to disperse the crowd. DIG Central Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, said that Police registered an FIR and began investigation. He confirmed that the bullet recovered from the injured Imam's body was that of an SLR, usually held by CRPF, but added that the shootout was 'mysterious' and it would be premature to hold anybody or any organisation responsible for it in absence of a thorough investigation. Informed sources said that SOG Srinagar and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation at Banigam locality of Shalimar, close to SKUAST headquarters, on the basis of a specific information in the morning today. During the search operation, at least two militants were found hiding at the residential house of a Sub Inspector of Police (Ministerial), namely Ghulam Mohammad Bhat. The SI has been posted with Forensic Science Laboratory of J&K Police. No sooner did the Police-CRPF combine zero in on the target house than the holed up militants opened fire. They were both killed when CRPF, for the first time, used rocket- launchers and Police blew up the house with IEDs during a fierce gunbattle. The militants killed in action were identified as Javed Ahmed Bhat alias Imran Gul S-o Gul Mohammad Bhat R-o Aglar Pulwama and Suhail alias Abu Ma'az. SSP Srinagar, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba, said that the two militants killed in the operation were both members of Al-Badar Mujahideen. Their AK-56 rifles and dead bodies were recovered after Police completed the searches in a cluster of houses this afternoon. He said that Imran Gul had been instrumental in engineering killing of over a dozen Police personnel and civilians, mostly in Srinagar and Zakoora-Shalimar belt. Meanwhile, reports available from north Kashmir said that with the death of two more militants, a total of six militants have died in an encounter with security forces in Lashkot-Sonapindi belt, close to LoC, in Kupwara sector. Sources said that four militants had died two days ago and the dead bodies of two more infiltrating militants have been recovered today. Sources said that one more militant has got killed in an encounter with security forces at Karam Post in Gurez sector. Police in Kupwara, however, insisted that no dead body had been recovered or handed over to Police so far in Kupwara district. Informed sources said that a 7-year-old boy, namely Bilal Ahmed Tantray S-o Ghulam Nabi Tantray, and 10-year-old, Showkat Ahmed Tantray S-o Abdul Jabbar Tantray, sustained critical injuries when a live grenade exploded near their residence at Khud Mohalla, Dardpora, in Kupwara district in the morning today. While Bilal succumbed to injuries, Showkat sustained critical injuries. He was referred to a Srinagar hospital where he had not been declared 'stable' till late this evening. Even as the family members deposed that the tragedy struck when the children duo was playing cricket, official sources said that it was a matter of investigation as playing or venturing out for the young boys did not appear possible due to heavy raining in that area since this morning. Reports from south Kashmir said that Police and security forces recovered a 4-kg IED in Yaripora, Kulgam today. One Irshad Ahmed Wagay of Kanji Kullah, Kulgam, has been picked up by forces for sustained questioning.