Srinagar: Five Hizbul Mujahideen militants including its top commander Saddam Padder and a fresh recruit, an assistant professor from the Kashmir University, were killed in an encounter on May 6 in militancy-infested Shopian area in south Kashmir even as five civilians died during clashes between protesters and security forces near the encounter site, the police said.
The five slain militants were identified as Saddam Hussain Padder, Bilal Ahmad Mohand, Adil Ahmed Malik, Tauseed Ahmad Sheikh and Mohammed Rafi Bhat, a PhD scholar and an assistant professor in the Kashmir University, they said.
Padder, who hailed from Heff in Shopian region, was active since September 2014, while Malik was active since 2014 and Sheikh from 2013. Mohand was active since 2016 and the Kashmir University assistant professor had joined the militant group last Friday, officials said.
With Padder’s killing, all ten militants, who appeared for the first time together along with Hizbul Mujahideen’s poster boy Burhan Wani in 2015, have been neutralised, officials said.
The picture of ten Hizbul Mujahideen militants at an apple orchard had created a stir in the Valley as they were touted by insurgent groups as ‘Kashmir’s new boys’ who had taken up arms. Of the ten, Padder was the only one alive, police said.
Padder and his aides were involved in a number of civilian killings and attacks on security forces besides instigating youth to join the terrorist network, police said.
The encounter on May 6 in Badigam comes within 24 hours of a swift police operation in Chattabal area of the city in which three Lashker-e-Taiba militants were gunned down.
During the gun-battle today, police made several appeals to the militants to surrender and also made their family members talk to them.
Inspector general of police, Kashmir, S.P. Pani said repeated attempts were made to persuade the assistant professor to surrender.
After receiving an input about his presence, we even brought his family from Ganderbal to persuade him to surrender, Pani said.
“During the encounter, while handling a highly volatile situation, civilians were injured in cross firing and among them five succumbed to their injuries. The condition of other injured persons are stated to be stable,” an official spokesperson said.
Police once again requested that encounter sites are prohibited zones and must be avoided by civilians.
Three security personnel were injured and were undergoing treatment at a hospital, officials said.
Kashmir University suspended classes for two days from May 7 as a precautionary measure and postponed exams that were to be held on Monday.
Mobile internet services were snapped in south Kashmir districts and Ganderbal in central Kashmir, while the facility remained barred in Srinagar for the second consecutive day today.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed anguish and grief over the death of five civilians.
“It sounds very depressing to note that our state is losing young lives, to the unending cycle of violence, who could otherwise be utilised for a positive contribution to the state. Today’s deaths have brought a stark fact to fore that gun, either way of a militant or that of security forces, is no solution for resolving issues,” Mehbooba said.
She said political issues need political intervention. “The three decades’ long violence in the state is a testimony to the fact that guns from either side cannot ensure peace, but a compassion driven reconciliation process based on mutual respect surely can.”
“In this regard, I appeal the national leadership of the country to show the element of compassion and empathy as required by the present day situation here and display the statesmanship to get J-K out of the quagmire of killings by engaging in a meaningful dialogue in the state. The sooner it happens, the more we can get our state out of the vicious cycle of killings and destruction,” she said.
Opposition National Conference (NC) working president Omar Abdullah said Kashmir issue has to be resolved through sustained dialogue and engagement and the “unabated” civilian killings in the Valley were unacceptable.
Expressing grief and sorrow over the civilian killings in the state, Abdullah said educated, employed young men becoming militants called for serious introspection at the central and state level and again highlighted the need for a permanent, sustainable and acceptable resolution of the political issue.
“Turning a blind eye towards the alarming situation won’t change reality. The growing levels of alienation and isolation are alarming signs and need to be acknowledged and addressed politically. This is not an economic issue and cannot be resolved through economic packages,” he said.
Meanwhile, separatists called for a strike and march to Civil Secretariat, the seat of Jammu and Kashmir government on May 7.
“Strike will continue across Kashmir tomorrow as well against the killings in Shopian,” a statement issued by separatists Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik said.