Fear of another cycle of violence gripped Indian-administered Kashmir a day after two suspected militants – one of them a leader of the largest separatist group in the insurgency-torn region – and a policeman were killed in a dramatic encounter.
At least 10 protesters were seriously injured in a clash between Indian security forces and anti-India protesters Monday in south Kashmir’s Tral town, some 50 km (31 miles) from Srinagar, a police source told BenarNews.
“We have the situation under control. Rest assured, the trouble mongers would be found and dealt sternly with the law,” S.P. Vaid, Indian Kashmir’s Director General of Police, told BenarNews.
The violence was triggered by the killing of Aqib Moulvi, 27, a Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander, and an as yet unidentified Pakistani national, allegedly an operative of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in a 15-hour firefight a day before.
Clashes also erupted in nearby Shopian district after government forces launched a cordon-and-search operation following intelligence inputs of the presence of suspected separatists in the area, rekindling memories of months-long violence that shook the Himalayan region after security forces gunned down a top separatist leader in July 2016.
More than 100 people were killed and 10,000 injured in the near daily clashes between Indian government forces and pro-freedom protesters between July and early December.
Muslim-majority Kashmir, claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, has been grappling with a separatist insurgency that has claimed more than 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.
Moulvi was a close aide of Burhan Wani, the HM commander killed in July last year, Vaid said.
“He [Moulvi] was involved in many terror activities,” he said.
The policeman who was killed in the encounter was identified as Manzoor Ahmad Maik, 33, Vaid said, adding that six other security personnel were also wounded in the gun fight.
Reacting to recent news reports that HM has recruited at least 100 Kashmiri youths since Wani’s killing, Vaid said: “We are keen to bring locals who have take to arms during the recent deadlock back to the mainstream. But it’s they who have to realize that violence in all its manifestation leads to destruction.”
In an unrelated incident in north Kashmir’s Sopore town Sunday, four teenagers were critically injured when a bomb exploded while they were playing in a field.
The wounded were identified as Akash Riyaz Bhat, Rashid Riyaz Bhat, Sahil Ahmad Lone and Shakir Hassan Dar.
“A police team has collected samples from the explosion spot and have been sent to a forensic laboratory to ascertain the nature of the blast,” Harmeet Singh, Sopore’s Superintendent of Police, told BenarNews.
Residents said unexploded mines laid out by stone quarry workers in the area could have caused the blast.
“It is quite likely the boys fiddled with one of the many unexploded and abandoned mines lying around,” Riyaz Ahmad, a prominent Sopore resident, told BenarNews.