- Dozens injured as locals try to storm gun-battle site to help freedom fighters escape
- Resistance leadership calls for shutdown across Kashmir to protest killings
SRINAGAR: Two freedom fighters and a 24-year-old woman were killed by Indian armed forces during a gun-battle in the southern part of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) on Tuesday while dozens of civilians suffered injuries in the subsequent clashes near the gun-battle site.
The gun-battle started late Monday evening after government forces, including the Indian Army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles, Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police and the paramilitary forces, cordoned off and raided some homes in Batmoora village of Shopian in southern Kashmir, following a tip-off that rebels were hiding there, police officials said.
Police officials said that the “anti-militancy operation” was stopped after a heavy exchange of fire due to darkness and extreme cold. On Tuesday, while the Indian forces were carrying out searches at the site, the exchange of fire resumed again triggering a fresh gunfight, they added.
As the fighting raged, thousands of villagers poured onto the streets chanting anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans and pelting stones at government forces to try to help the rebels escape. The government forces responded with bullets and pellet fires.
“While the gunfight was going on, thousands of civilians, mostly youth, from neighbouring villages assembled and started marching towards the gunfight site. They were trying to help the trapped rebels escape,” an eyewitness said.
He said, “As the civilian protesters neared the gunfight site, the government forces fired live bullets, pellets and teargas shells. The civilians threw stones and bricks at them triggering clashes.”
While a civilian lady was killed, more than 30 civilians suffered grievous or minor injuries during the clashes. The ding-dong battles continued for several hours.
“A bullet hit a lady in the abdomen at her home while she was cleaning the doorway of her house. She was identified as Beauty Jan, 24, wife of Manzoor Ahmad,” the eyewitnesses informed. “Beauty was rushed to a hospital but died on the way,” her relatives said.
Police said that the lady was killed in the crossfire. However, the villagers disputed the police claim, saying that the government forces fired at the protesters, killing the woman.
Senior police officials of the region confirmed that four civilians have suffered bullet injuries during the clashes while six others have been grievously injured due to pellet fires.
Eyewitnesses said that the Indian forces also blew three houses and two cowsheds during the gunfight using explosives, besides torching a car and a motorcycle.
The killings have invited sharp criticism from the resistance leadership led by octogenarian senior leader Syed Ali Geelani, and including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. The leadership has called for a complete shutdown across Kashmir on Wednesday to protest the killings.
In a statement, the leadership said that the “ongoing killings” of innocent men and women by Indian trigger-happy forces is agonizing. The leadership said that the spree of brutal killings has crossed every limit and has now become intolerable.
The state administration has ordered the imposition of curfew in at least six police station areas of Srinagar city and at some places in Shopian.
Meanwhile, the killings also led to intense nocturnal protests at the University of Kashmir. Sources said that hundreds of hoteliers came out of their hotels and protested against the killings. The hoteliers raised massive pro-Pakistan, anti-India and freedom slogans.
Over 200 freedom fighters and at least 40 civilians have died this year, the deadliest since 2010, in various conflicts in the territory. The surge in the killings comes after massive anti-India protests and clashes erupted in Kashmir last year when popular rebel leader Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed.