Review strategy periodically to prevent civilian casualties near encounter site: IG CRPF
At least 128 civilians have been killed near gunfight sites in across troubled Kashmir since January 2017.
In eleven months of this year, 50 civilian casualties were reported during clashes with forces near gunfight sites in Valley.
Most of the casualties took place in south Kashmir comprising four districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam.
Last year, 78 civilian casualties were reported near gunfight sites.
A youth boy Noman Ashraf Bhat of Boulso, Kulgam was the recent civilian casualty near the encounter site.
Noman was killed in forces firing on protestors near gunfight site at Batagund Shopain, where six militants and an Army man were also killed in the gunfight.
In November, of total eight civilian casualties reported in Kashmir, two were killed near gunfight sites, while remaining were killed in different circumstances.
Security officials say attempts by protestors to gather near gunfights and intense stone pelting on forces during anti-militancy operations to help militants escape from forces dragnet, is major reason for civilian killings at encounter sites.
Last year, they said, forces devised a strategy to strengthen the outer and middle layer cordons by deploying extra force personnel to keep the protestors away from gunfight sites.
The force personnel deployed at outer and middle layer cordons, they said, are mainly entrusted to maintain law and order while, the primary cordon laid by troops deals with the militants trapped in the besieged area.
However, despite warning by forces, civilians continue to come closer to gunfight sites to pave way for militants to escape.
At a recent gunfight at Kuthpora area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district where two militants including top Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Naveed Jhatt were killed, civilians helped another militant escape from the cordon. A video clip of the incident has been shared widely on social media.
IG CRPF (Operations), Zulfikar Hassan said main “intention” of all forces operating in the Valley was to avoid civilian casualty during anti-militancy operations.
“That is why we adopt new strategies to minimise civilian casualties. The public support to militants has reduced and the trend of people coming near gunfights sites has also come down,” Hassan told Rising Kashmir.
He said the more important is the “strategy and synergy” between police, Army and CRPF to launch anti-militancy operations and finish it quickly.
“It helps in containing civilian casualties to large extent,” IG CRPF said.
To avoid confrontation with civilians near gunfight sites and prevent civilian killings, the forces have also been prioritising the pre-dawn anti militancy operations.
The tactical change of launching Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) at pre-dawn hours and efforts to conclude the anti-militancy operations before the first light of the day was adopted by troops last year.
“If the operation concludes in early hours, it helps a lot as chances of people flocking near gunfight sites remain less,” IG CRPF added.