Wahid Bhat| SRINAGAR
A 12-year-old boy, Aatif Mir, who had applied for admission in Army Public School, was killed after militants who held him hostage during an encounter refused to let him go, in Hajin area of Bandipora.
The militant action is being widely condemned in Kashmir. Both the militants, belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, were also killed in the encounter.
People in Kashmir valley widely condemned the act of Militants and said that this is not “jihad” but “jahalat”.
A neighbour, who was also trapped inside his house saw a militant coming near a window with Aatif. He kept the boy in front of him. Aatif was holding his arm with a firm grip, the neighbour said.
Local speaking to ground report said “this should be ending now as we don’t want any more killing in Kashmir, he added terrorist is better for them they are no more militants for us”.
According to the police, based on credible inputs about the presence of militants in Hajin area of North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, a cordon and search operation was launched by police and security forces in the area on Thursday evening.
The police said as the searches were going on, the hiding militants fired on the search party. “Initially the militants kept two civilians as hostage. However, police and security forces with the assistance of community members safely rescued one civilian, Abdul Hameed.
Shameema Banu, mother of Aatif said “Aatif and his uncle were in second storey of a house along with the two militants when forces cordoned off the village”.
She added before leaving I asked them to let them go, but they told me to leave. Later, his uncle came out saying Atif has been held hostage. I requested the forces to not fire until my son comes out and they agreed. Later, I appealed to them to leave him. I begged them”.
Appealing militants, the locals head was the first to ask the terrorists to release the innocent boy. “Do whatever you want, but this is not Jihad but Jahalat. Please release the boy,” he said.
The uncle, 60-year-old Abdul Hameed, who was hostage and escaped during the lull in the gunfight, said the militants heard the appeals but they didn’t allow them to come out of the house. He said during the gunfight he got a chance to escape as he was in another room while the militants had kept the boy with them.
Aatif had had applied for Sainik school and Kendriya Vidyalaya and was supposed to appear in the exams after a few days. He was keen to study in boarding school.
“Another civilian 12-year Aatif Mir was kept hostage by the militants till the end, despite repeated requests by community members and police for his release,” the police said. The police said Aatif could not be rescued from the clutches of militants and was killed by them.
Human rights activist, Khuram Parvez said, “Aatif (12) was killed during the encounter at Hajin when the house in which militants were hiding was destroyed by armed forces. Aatif was held hostage by militants. Militants and armed forces are both responsible for this murder. Surely militants are accused of a horrible crime,” said.
“A minor held hostage during an encounter has been killed in Bandipore. Innocent civilians who are struggling to make ends meet have become casualties in the war between militants & armed forces. There is no method in this madness & the future looks bleak,” former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti said.
As pressure mounted on the terrorists, they killed the helpless Atif, the police said, adding that the security forces later mounted a heightened operation and killed both the Pakistanis.
Police said the militants fired on the security forces who engaged them in an encounter after the civilians in the adjoining areas had been evacuated to safer places.
“In the ensuing encounter, two militants were killed and the bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter. From the incriminating material recovered at the site of encounter it is understood that the two killed militants were Pakistani nationals identified as Ali and Hubaib,” the police said.
The police said both were affiliated with proscribed terror outfit LeT. “They were wanted by law for their complicity in a series of terror crimes, including attacks on security force establishments and civilian atrocities. According to police records, they were also responsible for conspiring and executing many terror attacks in the area. Several terror crime cases were registered against them,” the police said.