J&K: Scholar-turned-militant Mannan Wani gunned down in Handwara, Mehbooba Mufti terms it ‘our loss’

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Wahid Bhat

SRINAGAR: Security forces Thursday gunned down two militants in an encounter in Handwara of Jammu & Kashmir. Mannan Bashir Wani, an AMU research scholar from Kupwara was killed along with an associate in a gunfight in Shatgund village of Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Thursday.

A cordon and search operation was launched by the security personnel around 2.30 am after which the militants engaged the forces.

Wani was pursuing his PhD in applied geology from the AMU and had reportedly joined the militant ranks in January this year. Reports said that there was a break in the firing around 9 am after which forces launched their operation. However, just 15 minutes later militants resumed firing. Following which an intense exchange of fire took place for nearly over an hour.

At least six people were injured in the clashes between protesters and forces following the encounter. Locals confirmed to Ground Report over the phone that violent protests erupted in Shotgund village when the residents hit the streets and offered resistance over the killing of two militants in the area. Angry protesters hurled rocks at the security personnel in a bid to ‘disrupt the encounter’.

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Security personnel resorted to bursting tear gas shells and fired pellets to break up the demonstrators, witnesses said, adding, “The forces fired live ammunition after failing to chase protesters with tear smoke shells and pellets.”

Hospital sources from Kupwara told Ground Report that at least six people were injured in the clashes. They added that “two people were hit with pellets while another had bullet injuries in his leg. Two of the three injured have been referred to the Srinagar hospital for treatment”.

Police in a statement said that in the ensuing encounter, two militants were killed. Incriminating material including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter. Police has registered a case in this regard and an investigation has been initiated.

Former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba Mufti termed the killing of scholar turned militant commander Mannan Wani as “our loss” and advocated dialogue with all stake holders to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

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“Today a PhD scholar chose death over life & was killed in an encounter. His death is entirely our loss as we are losing young educated boys every day,” Mehbooba wrote on Twitter. In another tweet, Mehbooba advocated resumption of dialogue to resolve the long pending Kashmir dispute. “It is high time that all the political parties in the country realise the gravity of this situation and try to facilitate a solution through dialogue with all the stakeholders including Pakistan to end this bloodshed,” she said.

Awami Ittihad Party chairman and MLA Langate Er Rasheed said in a statement said that the killing of Manan Wani negates Governor Satpal Malik’s claim that we should focus on eliminating militancy rather killing militants.

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“Rather celebrating the killing and using bullets and pallets to disperse thousands of protesters at the encounter site, the government should introspect what forces masses to play with their lives,” said Er Rasheed.

Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman and senior joint resistance leader (JRL) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has called for a shutdown on Friday against the killing of Wani. Taking to Twitter, Mirwaiz expressed, “Alas! heard the tragic news of #MananWani’s Martyrdom and of his associates! Deeply pained that we lost a budding intellectual and writer like him, fighting for the cause of self-determination. JRL appeals to people to observe a complete #Shutdown tomorrow to pay homage to him.”

Internet services were suspended in various parts of the area.