5 terrorists killed in encounter, 5 civilians dead in clashes

Hizb commander Saddam Padder and Mohd Rafi Bhat, a PhD in sociology, among the ultras slain on Sunday

In a major success for security forces, five Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists including a top commander and a fresh recruit — a university professor — were killed in an encounter in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, even as five civilians died during clashes between protesters and law enforcing agencies near the encounter site.

“Five terrorists of the outlawed Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) were neutralised during an encounter at Badigam village in Shopian,” a police spokesman said here. He said the identities of the slain terrorists were being ascertained.

The encounter broke out less than 24 hours after the security forces killed three militants during a gunbattle in the Chattabal area in the heart of the city on Saturday. The security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Badigam village in the Zainapora area of the south Kashmir district following specific information about the presence of terrorists there.

Official sources said top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Saddam Padder and Mohammad Rafi Bhat, an assistant professor in Kashmir University, were among the slain terrorists. The other terrorists killed in the gunbattle are Tauseef Shiekh, Aadil Malik and Bilal alias Molvi, all residents of south Kashmir.

Bhat, a contractual assistant professor in the Sociology department of the university and a resident of the Chundina area of Ganderbal district, had gone missing on Friday. He had joined the terrorist ranks.

Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, SP Pani said the police made repeated attempts to persuade the professor to surrender, but to no avail. “After receiving input about his presence there, we brought his family from Ganderbal to persuade him to surrender,” Pani said.

Two police officials and an Army personnel suffered minor injuries during the gunbattle, a police official said. He said incriminating materials, including arms and ammunition, have been seized from the encounter site.

Meanwhile, clashes broke out between groups of stone-pelting youths and the security forces near the encounter site, leading to injuries to several protesters. “A number of youths suffered injuries during the clashes and were rushed to hospitals. Of them, five have succumbed to injuries,” the official said.

Kashmir University has suspended classes for two days from Monday as a precautionary measure and postponed all examinations that were to be held. Mobile Internet services have been snapped in south Kashmir and Ganderbal in central Kashmir, while the facility remained barred in Srinagar for the second day on Sunday.

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed grief over the death of 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 the fore that gun, either way of a militant or that of security forces, is no solution for resolving issues," Mufti said in a statement.