As news of Junaid Ahmad Matoo, a top Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) commander in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, trapped inside Malik Mohalla area in Arwani village, spread on social media, hundreds of protesters clashed with the army and Kashmir Police, in a bid to help the trapped militants escape.
The security forces, however, managed to kill two militants, including Matoo, in a gunfight that went on for several hours, while information on the third militant holed up inside the house remained unclear, police said.
A joint team of the Indian Army, Kashmir Police and the CRPF cordoned off Arwani village after receiving information about the three militants at around 10 am on Friday. Meanwhile, some youths gathered around the area and started pelting stones on the security forces which led to clashes.
At the time of writing this report, the security forces had razed two houses to the ground but the bodies of the dead militants were yet to be recovered.
Mattoo, 19, who was among the 12 most wanted militants in Kashmir Valley as listed by the army, was a resident of Khudwani area in Kulgam. He joined the LeT on 3 July, 2015 and he is among the new age Kashmiri militants who joined the LeT instead of the Hizbul Mujahideen. His death would severely affect the LeT operations in south Kashmir, as according to police officers of Kulgam district, “he was no ordinary militant.”
Last year, a CCTV footage caught Matoo running with an AK-47 in broad day light in Anantnag. He was seen attacking a police post and fleeing in a car. Two policemen were killed in that attack. He had a bounty of Rs 5 lakh on his head. He was also allegedly involved in an attack on a police van last year in which three policemen, including an officer, were killed.
Matoo became popular among his peers after carrying out the attack, videos of which went viral on social networking sites. His popularity could be the reason why there were such intense protests in south Kashmir on Friday.
On Friday morning, while the encounter was underway, hundreds of residents of Kharpora village, two kilometres from Arwani village, clashed with the security forces. Twenty-two year-old Mohammad Ashraf Khar was shot dead in his village during the protests.
“Khar was hit by a bullet. They fired bullets at protesters. More than a dozen people were injured," Asgar Ahmad Kutchai, a resident of Kharpora village.
Dr Majid Mehrab, medical superintendent of Anantnag District Hospital Islamabad, told Firstpost that Khar died on the way to the hospital.
“There were six bullet injuries, one suffered pellet injury in the eye and there were a dozen others in the hospital," he added.
Another teenage boy was killed in clashes near the encounter site in Arwani village after he was hit by a bullet in the chest. Ahsan Dar, 14, was referred to Qaimoh hospital where doctors declared him dead on arrival.
The protests spread to the north of the Valley as well. Clashes between forces and protesters erupted in Pampore, a small to town on the outskirts of Srinagar city towards the south. The Hurriyat Conference has called for a complete shutdown on Saturday.
Tension in the Valley was already high after a civilian, Naseer Ahmad Sheikh, died on Thursday after getting injured during protests in Rangreth locality in Srinagar. A policeman, Shahzed Dilawar, was also killed in a militant attack in Hyderpora area on Thursday evening. Both belonged to a village called Astengoo in Bandipora, north Kashmir.
Almost all the schools and colleges will remain shut on Saturday.
Updated Date: Jun 16, 2017 20:49 PM