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Pulwama killings: Kashmir, Chenab valley shut in mourning

Srinagar, Dec 16: Kashmir and parts of Chenab valley observed a complete shutdown on Sunday as a mark of mourning and protest against the killing of seven civilians and three militants in an encounter in Pulwama district the previous day.

Authorities imposed strict restrictions in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district and parts of Srinagar in view of the shutdown called by Joint Hurriyat leadership against the killings.

The leadership comprising of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Yasin Malik called for a three-day shutdown and a protest march to the Badamibagh Army Cantonment in Srinagar on Monday.

Seven civilians were killed and several people injured in firing by government forces during clashes that followed a gunfight with militants in Sirnoo village of Pulwama.

Three militants and a soldier were also killed during the gunfight.

On Sunday, restrictions were imposed under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Pulwama district and six police station areas of Srinagar – Nowhatta, Khanyar, Rainawari, Safakadal, M R Gunj and Maisuma.

An official said restrictions were imposed as a “precautionary measure to maintain law and order and avoid any untoward incident”.

However, groups of youth hit streets at Gangiwara Anantnag and its adjoining areas, Noorbagh, Ganderpora Eidgah, Bonapora Batmaloo, Tangpora Byepass and Muran Chowk, Pulwama and other places and staged pro-freedom demonstrations, witnesses said.

The protesters pelted stones on government forces who responded by lobbing tear smoke shells to disperse them.

However, no one was reported seriously hurt in the pitched battles that continued for several hours, they said.

Reports from south Kashmir said that paramilitary CRPF men and police were deployed in strength in the four districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag to prevent people from holding protests.

The slain militant commander Zahoor Ahmad Thoker was interred in a local graveyard after multiple funerals at Sirnoo village on Sunday.

Reports attributing local residents said that four rounds of funeral prayers were held for Thoker on Sunday.

On Saturday around 10 turns of funeral prayers were held for him, they said.

Zahoor had fled along with his service rifle from the Army in 2017 to join militant ranks.

He was posted with 173 Territorial Army in Baramulla.

The other two other militants—killed in gunfight—and seven slain civilians—killed in forces action during clashes near gunfight site at Sirnoo – were laid to rest on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was also observed in Chenab Valley’s Banihal, Khari, Bhadarwah, Doda, Thathri, Gandoh and Kishtwar areas.

The shutdown call was given by the Anjuman-e-Islamia Bhadarwah, Seerat Committee Doda and Majlis-e-Shoura Kishtwar to lodge protest against Saturday’s civilian killings in Pulwama.

President, Anjuman Islamia (AIB) Bhadarwah, Pervaiz Ahmed Sheikh said: “We have given a call for peaceful bandh to lodge our protest against innocent civilian killings in Kashmir but for how long we will keep our emotions, especially those of youth in control, as the government instead of initiating talks is on a killing spree”.

Sheikh termed the killings as “most heinous and worst atrocity” against the people of Kashmir.

Train services in Kashmir remained suspended for the second successive day on Sunday for “security reasons”.

Shops, fuel stations and other businesses were shut. Mobile internet services were suspended in several parts of the Valley and security personnel deployed.

Former MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid was detained during a protest march that he held in Srinagar with supporters of his Awami Ittehad Party.

They were marching from his official residence to the local office of United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, a police official said. Rashid said protestors were chanting slogans against security forces and seeking the “implementation of UN resolutions to end bloodshed”.

“It is obvious that New Delhi has no resolution to Kashmir dispute except pellets, bullets, massacres, draconian laws and state terrorism,” he said.

“Governor Satya Pal Malik, the state DGP [director general of police] and the Army chief must own the moral responsibility of the killings rather making fake enquiries and condemnations.”