Thousands of people took to streets in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district, almost 90 kilometres from the summer capital of Srinagar, demanding the return of the dead bodies of the militants, who were killed in an encounter with security forces in the forest area Lolab on Monday.
A day after the security forces claimed to had killed seven militants belonging to Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Toiba, thousands demonstrated and clashed with the police demanding the dead bodies back. More than a dozen people were injured.
The army said on Monday that acting on a tip off about the presence of a group of militants in Dardpora forests in the Lolab area, a party of the Army’s 28 and 18 Rashtriya Rifles and police’s Special Operation Group launched a combing operation in the dense forests located close to the Line of Control in Kupwara.
It was during the search search operations that the security forces found the militants hiding in the jungle, resulting in a fierce encounter.
However protests rocked the border area in the morning when locals alleged that the dead militants were locals who had gone to collect firewood from the nearby forests.
While the postmortem of militants was being carried out inside the police station, the protesters tried to set ablaze the Lal-Pora police station. More than four thousand people gathered outside the and started throwing stones towards it.
The police had to resort to tear canisters and aerial firing to disperse the crowd, because of which a dozen people were injured.
The General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the Kilo Forces, Major General SK Sani, said in Kupwara that the deceased were killed in a fierce gun battle with the police and army.
"After the encounter was over we took pictures of the bodies and handed them over to the villagers for burial. All the killed militants were foreigners not locals," Maj General Saini said. The army also said they had taken blood samples of the dead militants for the DNA tests.
Mohmmad Amin who was injured in the clashes said that said they had gathered peacefully in front of the police station to demand the dead bodies for the proper burial, but the police resorted to firing. Following the clashes the district administration imposed a curfew in Lolab region.
Earlier the protesters had set ablaze two police posts and hurled stones at the forces. The police later handed over the bodies of the slain militants to the locals.
Four Photojournalists were injured during the clashes while taking photos from the police station. The injured were identified as Amir War, Abid Nabi, Mubashir Khan, and Tajamul-ul-Islam, a stringer working with IBN, their vehicles and equipment were damaged.
As soon as the police handed over the dead bodies to the locals thousand of people gathered at a local ground where they offered funeral prayers for the militants.
“We are not sure who these people are. We just buried their bodies after the police handed them over to us," said Ashraf Khan, a local resident.
Updated Date: Feb 25, 2014 20:51 PM