Separatist leader’s son among two terrorists killed in encounter in Srinagar

Two terrorists of the banned Hizbul Mujahideen including Junaid Ashraf Khan ‘Sehrai’, whose father is chairman of the separatist conglomerate Tehrek-e-Hurriyat, were killed on Tuesday after a 15-hour-long gunbattle with security forces in a densely populated area in downtown Srinagar, officials said.
The encounter, which began just after midnight and continued well past Tuesday afternoon, saw damage to around 12 houses in the vicinity of Nawakadal downtown city, leaving many people homeless during the coronavirus pandemic.
Private mobile phones as well as pre-paid BSNL connections were snapped and mobile internet was also stopped as a precautionary measure.
The action, according to Director General of Jammu and Kashmir police Dilbag Singh, started in the night following an intelligence tip off about the presence of militants in the area which was immediately cordoned off by the Special Task Force and CRPF jawans.
Singh identified the killed terrorist as Khan, who was a self-styled divisional commander of the banned terror outfit, and the second one as Tariq Ahmed Sheikh, a resident of Pulwama in South Kashmir who joined the militant ranks in March this year.
They were killed in an encounter with police and para-military forces, the DGP said, adding that Khan was active in Pulwama, Shopian of South Kashmir besides in central Kashmir’s Budgam district as well as in Srinagar city.
He said police was on hot pursuit of other militants who will be nabbed soon.
The residents of this downtown locality woke up to gun shots piercing the silence of the night in this highly populated area with people getting anxious as encounters with militants within Srinagar city were rarely witnessed for the last two years.
Sounds of gun shots and loud explosions were heard and people, who had to wake up for their ‘Sehri’ (morning meals during the holy month of Ramzan), saw gun-totting personnel covering every lane and bylane to ensure that the holed up terrorists do not escape.
Terrorists were hopping from one home to the other in the locality where all houses share common walls or roofs, making it difficult for the police to corner them. During the fierce gunbattle, as many as 12 houses were damaged which included two that have been completed razed, three with substantial loss and many others had cracks and burnt windows.
Khan, an MBA from the Kashmir University, had joined militancy in March 2018. Before returning to the Valley and joining the Hizbul Mujahideen terror group’s ranks, he had worked in a couple of multinational companies in Delhi.
After the encounter, which ended this afternoon, angry residents poured out on the streets and pelted stones.
Two security personnel also suffered minor injuries during the encounter.
Both militants were taken to an “unidentified graveyard” in North Kashmir and buried, officials said. Khan’s father Mohammed Ashraf Sehrai offered ‘Gaybana Nimaz-e-Jinaza’ (funeral prayer in abstentia) at his home in Bhagat area of uptown Srinagar.
Tuesday’s encounter was a signal to the security forces that militants had entered Srinagar city, which had been cleared of them completely by 2014.
The last encounter that took place within the city was in 2018 when three militants were killed.
Khan’s was the first case of a son of a separatist leader of Jammu and Kashmir joining a terror group. The kin of other separatist leaders are working with government departments or are settled abroad.
Khan had three cases registered against him which included injuring special police officer Umar Rashid in Srinagar city last year.
His father Ashraf Sehrai, who dislodged pro-Pakistan separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani from the chairmanship of Tehrek-e-Hurriyat, had declined from making a public appeal to call his son back from militancy.