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Oldest 'rebel' shot dead by forces

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 16.04.10
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Srinagar, April 15: A white-bearded man who appeared to be around 65 was shot dead by the army yesterday but police distanced themselves from the alleged encounter with the suspected militant, possibly the “oldest” to have died in a gunfight with security forces.

A police officer, who refused to be identified, said police were not part of the operation in a north Kashmir forest, though an army spokesperson claimed that cops too were involved.

“It was an army operation. He is quite elderly and if he really turns out to be a militant, he could be the oldest rebel to die,” the officer said.

Army sources said the unidentified militant was killed by troops of 6 Rashtriya Riffles in an encounter in Rainawari forest near Pahaldagi village in Handwara early yesterday.

Defence spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel J.S. Brar said the lone militant was killed around 4 in the morning.

“The army’s patrol parties along with police had an exchange of fire with a terrorist in Rainawari forest which led to his death,” he said.

The spokesperson said an AK assault rifle and 67 rounds of ammunition were found.

The police appeared reluctant to be dragged into the operation, fearing it would be a major embarrassment if the suspected militant turned out to be a civilian.

Handwara police chief Rafiq Ahmad Wakil said the army handed over the body to the police yesterday along with the weapon found on the man.

“He was white-bearded and appeared to be 60 to 65 years of age. He can be from our part of Kashmir or the other side. We kept his body at Handwara till 5pm yesterday for identification but nobody claimed it after which he was buried,” he said.

“We even brought the families of two local guides (who help militants cross over) to identify if he was their relative,” the police officer added.

Wakil said the army laid a strategic ambush in the area, a routine during this part of the year when the snow melts and militants start infiltrating, and noticed a movement. “The army said there was an encounter which led to the man’s death.”

Wakil said he knew some militants who were 50 or above. “There was a local militant in Bandipore by the name of Omar Chacha who was more than 50 and died fighting forces,” he said. But this is the first time that someone around 60 has been killed in an alleged encounter.

The police officer said the slain man’s picture had been preserved.