Seven civilians including a 15-year-old boy were killed in an explosion that took place after a gunfight between government forces and militants in Laroo area of southern Kulgam district which left three Jaish-e-Muhammad rebels dead on Sunday.
The killings triggered massive protests and clashes and a shutdown call for Monday by the Joint Resistance Leadership. More than 25 persons were injured after forces fired live ammunition on protesters in Anantnag and Kulgam areas.
A civilian, Javid Ahmad Lone, who was injured in the blast succumbed late last night, taking the civilian death toll to seven. He was laid to rest amid sobs and pro-freedom slogans on Monday morning.
A gunfight raged between forces and militants holed up inside a house in Laroo village, 4-kms from Kulgam town, at around 5 am. After 10 am, the guns fell silent.
According to the police sources, the three militants were identified as Shahid-ul-Islam Tantray from Wangam village in Shopian, Yazil Makroo from Arwani area in Bijbehara (Anantnag) and Zubair Lone from Ahwatoo village in DH Pora area of Kulgam. All the slain militants were affiliated with Jaish-e-Muhammad, the source added.
Eyewitnesses told Greater Kashmir that before forces retreated from Laroo, they allegedly set on fire the house where the militants were holed up. “The gunfight ended at around 10 am. Soon thereafter, people started assembling at the encounter site and few of them tried to douse the flames. At around 11.30 am, there was a loud blast near veranda of the house,” said a photojournalist who was covering the gunfight when the explosion occurred.
Another freelance photographer, who was also at the site, said: “I along with a few more photojournalists rushed towards the blast site. We saw a person, whose both hands had been ripped apart by the blast, being evacuated from the site. Another person’s chest bones were visible, while the third one had a deep wound in his head and blood was oozing from it.” Amid chaotic scenes around, he said for next 10 minutes, there were only a few people including photojournalists trying to attend to the injured persons.
“We started shouting for help and soon, people came and started taking the injured to hospitals,” the photographer said.
The witnesses said that the injured were evacuated to district hospital Kulgam where three of them were declared dead on arrival.
“Four more injured in the blast were referred to Srinagar hospitals. However, three among them later succumbed,” they said.
The deceased civilians—all from Kulgam district—were identified as Irshad Ahmad Pader and Tajamul Ahmad (both hailing from Shurat village); Talib Maqbool Laway and Mansoor Dar (both hailing from Laroo), Uzair Ahmad Dar from Reshipora and Ubaid Shah from Makenpora village. “Two of the injured succumbed at SMHS hospital in Srinagar and one referred to SKIMS also died later,’ a health official said, adding that all of them had blast injuries.
At least 25 people were injured in protests that erupted during and after the gunfight at Laroo. “People hurled stones on forces personnel who in turn lobbed shells and later fired bullets and pellets to disperse them,” a witness said. “We received three persons with bullet injuries and eight with pellet injuries,” a doctor at district hospital Anantnag told Greater Kashmir. He said two of the injured had bullet injuries in the abdomen while four had pellets in eyes and were shifted to Srinagar. In Kulgam district hospital, a doctor said that seven more injured, mostly with pellet and bullet wounds, were brought there. Four of them were referred to Srinagar for specialized treatment, he said.
Meanwhile, amid pro-freedom and anti-India sloganeering, all six civilians and three militants were laid to rest at their native villages in Kulgam, Bijbehara, and Shopian. “It was a doomsday at Kulgam,” said a group of residents from Laroo. Thousands of people participated in funeral prayers of slain militant Shahid-ul-Islam Tantray at his native village in Wangam area of Shopian district. As the word about Tantray’s death in the Laroo gunfight spread, people from far-off places converged at his native village SudershanPora to participate in his last rites. Father and sister of 13-year-old Uzair, was killed in the blast at encounter site in Kulgam.Talib Maqbool, a BA First Year student, who had to write the last paper in the examination today, was killed in the blast at the encounter site in Kulgam on Sunday. He is survived by mother and sister.
After six rounds of funeral prayers, Tantray was laid to rest amid pro-freedom sloganeering. Tantray (21) had joined militancy on 14 July this year and was a Hafiz-e-Quran, one who has memorised the entire Holy Book. Meanwhile, a group of militants surfaced during the funeral and offered him a gun salute. Internet and mobile phone services in the district were suspended soon after the gunfight erupted, while train service from Srinagar towards Banihal was also suspended. The forces imposed strict restrictions in Kulgam town and adjoining villages to foil any attempts of protests.
Jaish-e-Muhammad has paid tributes to three militants of the outfit and six civilians killed in Kulgam on Sunday, local news agency GNS quoted a JeM spokesperson saying in a statement. “Every drop of the blood spilled in Kashmir will be avenged. Jaish-e-Muhammad will avenge on behalf of their oppressed Kashmiri brethren,” the spokesperson said, and expresses solidarity with families of slain militants and civilians.
In a joint statement, bureaucrats K Vijay Kumar and Dilbag Singh expressed heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families who lost their dear ones “in this tragic incident.” “As per reports, the civilians rushed to the site after the encounter was over, resulting in casualties in the blast as the area was yet to be sanitized,” they said in the statement, and urged the civilians to “avoid such sites till they are properly sanitized.”
The class 12 examination scheduled on Monday (October 22) in Kashmir division is postponed, director school education Kashmir G N Itoo said. “The fresh dates for the deferred exam will be issued separately, later,” he said. A spokesman of BOSE said the examination will be held as per schedule in Leh and Kargil besides winter zones of Jammu.
“The exam has been postponed for Kashmir division only,” he said. Meanwhile, authorities at Islamic University of Science and Technology have also postponed the exams scheduled for Monday.
“The dates for deferred exams will be notified later separately,” a spokesman of the varsity said, adding that the classwork will also remain suspended in the varsity on Monday. Also, authorities at Kashmir University (KU) rescheduled the examination of BG 1st semester slated on Monday. “The examination of the papers of BG 1st semester which was scheduled to be held on Monday (22-10-2018) has been rescheduled and shall now be conducted on Wednesday 24-10-2018,” a varsity spokesperson said. He said there will be no change in other examinations scheduled for Monday. Meanwhile, nocturnal protests erupted in KU main campus against civilian and militant killings in Kulgam district.
The students from Zakura campus assembled in the main campus and were later joined by hostel boarders of MA and MAK Boys hostel.
The protesting students were shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. The students also held a candle march and offered funeral prayers in absentia for slain civilians and militants. (With Gulzar Bhat in Shopian)
Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur on Sunday condemned the killing of six civilians and three militants in Kulgam district. “The world community should take a note of the atrocities on innocent Kashmiris. The world should raise its voice on this barbaric treatment,” ARY NEWS quoted Pakistan minister as having said.
Many have expressed their anguish and protest against the army and Indian occupation, following the killing of civilians and militants.
“5 times a day to perform Namaz for Muslims all over the world, but there is a place in India called Kashmir, where Namaz-e-Janaza has become a 6th daily prayer!” wrote a social media user. The slogans “Death” “Destruction and Mayhem perpetuated by the Indian army in Kulgam, Kashmir”
“DownWithOccupation” were raised in various social media platforms.
There have been reports that in the bloody encounter of Kulgam, armed forces didn’t allow the house owner Sheeraz Ahmad Bhat, his wife & three children to come out for the whole night while the gunfight was going on. It was due to the hue & cry of villagers, in the morning they were allowed to come out.