NEW DELHI — Around 15 houses were razed by police and paramilitary forces during a gunfight with militants in Srinagar, the main city of the Kashmir Valley, on Tuesday morning, reports said.
In the gunfight that broke out in the wee hours on Saturday in a congested neighbourhood of Nawakadal in the old parts of the city, the forces killed two militants. Of the two militants killed, police said, one is Junaid Sehrai, son of a prominent Hurriyat leader, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai.
The other militant has been identified as Tariq Ahmad, a resident of the restive town of Pulwama.
In the gun battle, the police said a paramilitary trooper and a policeman were injured in the encounter. They were rushed to a cantonment hospital for treatment.
Reports said that the forces used explosives to blow up the house where militants were put up. A huge fire ignited by the explosion spread and engulfed 15 nearby structures and reduced them to rubble in a flash.
Residential houses damaged in the gunfight, in which two militants were killed, after forces besieged them and used explosives.
The gunfight took place in Nawakaldal, a densely populated area in downtown Srinagar. #Kashmir
— Aakash Hassan (@AakashHassan) May 19, 2020
Social media was full of visuals showing smoldering rubble of buildings as locals and firemen were engaged in clearing the debris
Over a dozen homes damaged during an encounter in old city area of Srinagar Kashmir. Top militant commander Junaid Sehrai was killed along with his associate Tariq in the gunfight.
📸 @kamranyousuf_ pic.twitter.com/LasfQarBHn
— kamran yousuf (@kamranyousuf_) May 19, 2020
The action triggered outrage among the people who accused the police of loot and plunder.
One video that has been widely shared on the social media shows women alleging that the forces stole their belongings while they were forced out of their homes in the middle of night.
“They came at 2:30 AM into the lane and then entered homes and asked us to vacate,” a woman flanked by her neighbours says. “They did not allow us to even take anything with us.”
Locals in Nawa Kadal in downtown #Srinagar where several houses were gutted during the encounter allege that their houses were vandalized by the forces and valuables, jewelry and cash are missing from there as well. One of the woman narrates what happened. #Srinagar #Kashmir pic.twitter.com/peDNiVD7U4
— Hakeem Irfan (@HakeemIrfan) May 19, 2020
She says they sat outside on the street, but the forces removed them from there. “Where would we go at that unearthly hour,” she asks.
She alleges that they (the forces) stole gas cylinder, jewellery and the cash the family had saved for the construction of their house. She asks the interviewer to visit her home and see how military (forces) looted their home.
Another woman in the video also complaints that the forces ransacked the homes.
The police announced on twitter that they have cordoned off the area to launch an anti-militant operation.
— Kashmir Zone Police (@KashmirPolice) May 18, 2020
Soon, the authorities, as usual, snapped cell and mobile internet services in Srinagar district to restrict the ability of the people to communicate. Only BSNL postpaid services were working.
Later, the internet services were also snapped in Pulwama.
The police said that they recovered two weapons and ammunition from the slain militants.
Junaid, 32, had joined militants’ ranks in 2018. He was a management graduate and rose to the rank of divisional commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest militant outfit active in Kashmir. Junaid’s funeral prayer was led at his home in Srinagar in absentia by his father as the family waited for the dead body. The family originally hails from Lolab valley of Kupwara district.