In a major breakthrough, two Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists including Sameer Ahmed Bhat, alias ‘Sameer Tiger’, considered the main recruiter for the extremist group as well as the brain behind several political killings, were gunned down in Pulwama district on Monday, officials said.
A civilian, Shahid Ahmad Dar, was also killed in the cross fire while some others were injured when they tried to storm the encounter site at Drabgam, 17 km from Pulwama district headquarters, officials said.
Two army personnel suffered bullet injuries in the encounter, police officials said.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range) S P Pani said Bhat was involved in several killings especially those of politicians.
Giving details of the encounter, an official spokesperson said a joint team of state police, army and Central Reserve Police Force carried out searches at Drabgam village in Pulwama district of south Kashmir.
As the searches were going on, terrorists fired upon the security personnel. The forces retaliated leading to an encounter, the spokesperson said.
“During the encounter, two militants who were trapped inside the cordon, were neutralized and they have been identified as Sameer Ahmad Bhat alias Sameer Tiger Aqib and Mushtaq Khan, a local resident of Rajpora in Pulwama,” the spokesperson added.
Bhat was recruited as an overground worker by the banned Hizbul Mujahideen after he passed Class 8 since he had discontinued his education due to lack of interest, the spokesperson said.
He was involved in several stone pelting incidents prior to his militant activities, the official added. Bhat was active in the area since May 2016 and had played a part in several cases of atrocities on civilians in the area, the official said.
Bhat was involved in the firing incident on the residence of ex-MLA Syed Bashir Ahmad in Sheikhard and in a grenade attack on a ‘naka’ party at Hawal, Pulwama, police said.
“Besides his involvement was established in the kidnapping and firing on two civilians from Qasbayar in which one civilian Bashir Ahmad Dar died instantly while another Altaf Ahmad Dar was seriously injured. Last year he had indiscriminately fired upon a patrolling party of 44 RR besides he had also entered into the houses of civilians in south Kashmir and forced them to issue video statements against the government and security agencies,” the official said.
Bhat was a close confidante of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo and both had been spotted together in a video released recently on social media, the official added.
The other terrorist killed, Aqib Mushtaq Khan, was active since July 2017. He also had plotted several attacks on the security establishments in south Kashmir along with Bhat and was closely associated with him after joining the militant ranks, police said.
Some civilians wanted to throng the encounter site so that the terrorists could escape, an official said.
Around noon, security personnel, who were facing stone pelting by a mob, fired heavily at the house in which the terrorists were holed, thereby creating an explosion, officials said.
About an hour later, the first terrorist, identified as Khan, was killed. He was a local belonging to Pulwama’s Rajpora area.
Around 2.15 pm, Bhat was gunned down, officials added.
One of the injured army men is a Major-rank officer, who has hit by a bullet in the arm. Both the injured soldiers were evacuated to the Army’s 92 base hospital for treatment, officials said.
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com