Srinagar, Oct 21:Seven civilians, including a 10-year-old boy, were killed and at least 50 others injured, many of them grievously, in Kulgam when a powerful explosion rattled a gunfight site thronged by people after the killing of three militants Sunday morning.
The incident happened at Laroo village of the district after government forces launched a cordon-and-search operation following intelligence report about the presence of militants.
Soon there was firing from either ends ensuing an encounter in which three militants, reportedly of Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit, were killed.
Police identified the slain militants as Shahid Ahmad Tantary of Wangam, Shopian; Zubair Ahmad Lone of Ahwatoo, Kulgam, and Yazil Ahmad Makroo of Arwani, Bijbehara.
“Arms and ammunition were recovered from the spot,” a police spokesman said.
As the encounter ended, locals, as has become a routine exercise in such situations, thronged the gunfight site, a house which was already reduced to rubble by explosives and other weaponry government forces use in such situations.
Reports from the village said locals were busy dousing the flames at the house.
Minutes later, an explosive shell, which the police dubbed as “stray explosive material” and many reports as improvised explosive device (IED),went off injuring dozens of people around it.
Initially, there were doubts whether the people had died in the explosion or during clashes, which started soon after the encounter, when the locals had flocked in to engage the forces.
As the dust settled, bloody scenes started to emerge from the gunfight site where people, many already dead with the sheer impact of the explosion, were lying in the own pools of blood.
The injured were soon shifted to nearby district hospitals in Kulgam and Anantnag, from where many had to be referred to SMHS, Srinagar’s tertiary care hospital.
The Kulgam district hospital authorities said that initially three injured were brought to the hospital, who were declared dead on arrival.
Two youth identified as Uzair Ahmad and Masroor Ahmad (a 10-year old-boy), too were declared dead on arrival by the doctors at SMHS.
Another was declared brought dead by doctors at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Soura, Srinagar. Later one more injured succumbed to his wounds.
As the day progressed, the civilian casualty figure rose to seven while several hospitals had admitted over 50 of the injured, many with critical and life-altering wounds.
The seven slain civilians were, reportedly, identified as UbaidLaway son of Mohammad Maqbool Laway, Uzair Ahmad, Masroor Ahmad, Talib Maqbool of Laroo, Tajamul Ahmad of DenewBogund, Irshad Ahmad of Shurat and Auqib Ahmad Sheikh son of Gul Mohammad of Makhanpora, Kulgam.
While police only confirmed the death of six civilians, reports said there was another unidentified body, completely charred and beyond recognition, at the hospital.
Shamshad Ahmad, a local of Kulgam, who was accompanying his injured son at SMHSsaid: “If the encounter was over and forces took the bodies of the militants along with them, why was an IED left out near the encounter site when forces knew that the locals and the house owner will visit the site soon after?”
As per him, the police officials concerned did not issue any warning to the people about not going near the encounter site.
The hospital was reverberating with anti-India and pro-freedom slogans even as many Srinagar residents volunteered to donate the blood to the injured people.
Ishfaq Ahmad, who witnessed the blast, said that around 11 in the morning, when the encounter was already over and government forces were withdrawing from the spot, scores of youth rushed to the encounter site to have the glimpse of the militants that were killed in the encounter.
“Not known to the fact that forces had placed IEDs near the encounter site, as soon as youth entered into the area there was a huge blast which resulted in the injuries to more the 60 people out which at least six died,” Ishfaq said.
He added that the death toll may increaseas the “IED” exploded at a very close range to the huge crowd.
Back in Kulgam, there was an all pervasive sense of mourning in Laroo and its adjoining villages as locals were frantically rushing to the spot to enquire about the well-being of their relatives and friends.
Authorities suspended cellphone and internet services in Kulgam in a bid to thwart more protests.
UN chief could discuss Kashmir issue at UNGA: UN spokesman
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is likely to use the opportunity of discussions during the high-level UN General Assembly session that begins here next week to raise the Kashmir issue, the UN chief’s spokesperson has said.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric during the daily press briefing here on Thursday said that the UN chief has underscored the need for dialogue as the only way to resolve the issue and, “as part of the solution for the current crisis in Kashmir, to make sure that human rights aspects are very much dealt with, as well.”
“…On Kashmir, the Secretary General… has said previously, he remains engaged. I think he will also use the opportunity of discussions during the General Assembly to raise it,” Dujarric said, responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir.
On Wednesday, Guterres emphasised that “dialogue” between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for reaching a solution on the Kashmir issue, and said his good offices are available should both sides ask for it and called for full respect of human rights.
“Well, our capacity is related to good offices, and good offices can only be implemented when the parties accept it. And, on the other hand, it relates to advocacy, and the advocacy was expressed and will be maintained,” Guterres said during his press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly session.
Guterres was asked by a Pakistani journalist about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and what will he do to bring a solution to the Kashmir issue.
“I go on with a clear opinion that human rights must be fully respected in the territory, and I go on with the clear opinion that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an absolutely essential element for the solution of the problem,” he said.
India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan.
The UN Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.
Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.
Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York on September 27. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to speak on the same day.
Amid Kashmir tensions, India will participate at SAARC meeting in New York
NEW DELHI: Amid heightened Indo-Pak tensions, India will participate at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting scheduled to be held on September 26 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, officials said on Thursday.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will be present in the US next week and will hold bilateral and multilateral meetings.
Officials said India will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers meeting that is scheduled for September 26.
The meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA could bring Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi face to face for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.
Asked about a possible meeting with his Pakistani counterpart as well as the future of the SAARC regional grouping, Jaishankar, at a press conference earlier this week, had said, “if and when I meet Pakistani Foreign Minister, we will see at that time what happens”.
The SAARC is about regional cooperation and that refers to trade, MFN, connectivity etc.
, he had said, adding that now every member knows which country is promoting SAARC and which one is impeding it.
Last year, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting, usually held on the sidelines of the UNGA.
Plea alleges detention of children in Kashmir, SC seeks report
The Supreme Court on Friday sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the alleged detention of children in Kashmir during curbs following the scrapping of Article 370 in the state on August 5.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors. The top court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue.
The Supreme Court also said it had received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.
“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.
The Supreme Court also sought response from the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea challenging detention of five persons in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.
The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, to file his response.