Six deaths in gunfight in Shopian put Kashmir on boil, again

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Srinagar, March 5: Strict restrictions were imposed at various places and internet curfew clamped across the Kashmir Valley on Monday, a day after six people, including at least two militants, were killed in a shootout in a south Kashmir village.

While the security forces claim that all those killed were militants or their overground workers, separatist leaders and locals alleged that four of them were civilians.

The deaths on Sunday evening occurred after a militant traveling in a car attacked the Indian Army’s mobile vehicle check-post near Pahnoo village in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, some 60 km from here.

Four were confirmed dead on Sunday night and two more bodies were recovered on Monday morning, police said.

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Police said they recovered the bullet-ridden body of Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Ashiq Hussain Bhat at Saidpora area in Shopian, about 6 km from the firing spot. He was missing since November 13, 2017.

“Preliminary investigation suggests that Bhat’s death was part of Sunday’s gunfight in Pahnoo village. Further investigation is on,” a police officer said.

The body of another civilian, Gowhar Ahmad Lone, 24, was also found on Monday morning, some 250 meters away from the gunfight site.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said she was “deeply distressed by more deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire in Shopian” and expressed her “heartfelt condolences to the deceased’s families”.

Separatist leaders by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, and Yasin Malik called for a valley-wide protest shutdown against the killings.

Fearing street protests, the authorities imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar city and south Kashmir region amid a shutdown call by the separatists.

The State Public Service Commission ordered the cancellation of Monday’s civil services exams in the state.

Internet and rail services were suspended in south Kashmir while as shops, other businesses and public transport remained shut in Srinagar.

Malik, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief, was arrested from here on Monday during a protest march against the killings.

Police intercepted Malik’s protest march and took the separatist leader and some of his supporters into custody.

Speaking to the media, Malik said: “It is the MLAs of the state who are responsible for the killings of these civilians.

“The Army has been given a free hand as no effort has been made by the so-called lawmakers of the state to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)”.

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