On the morning of May 19, residents of Srinagar woke up to the sound of gunfire. An armed exchange between militants and security forces had broken out around 2am. This time, the site of the encounter was Nawakadal, part of Srinagar’s densely packed old town.

While districts across the Valley witness frequent gunfights, they rarely occur in the heart of Srinagar. The last time the old city had seen a gunfight was in October 2018, when four Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were killed. By the time Tuesday’s gunfight ended, two Hizbul Mujahideen militants had been killed. Police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel were also injured.

One of the militants was Junaid Sehrai, a divisional commander of the Hizb, an MBA graduate and the son of Ashraf Sehrai, chairman of the separatist Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. According to a police statement, he was “involved in planning and executing several terror attacks”. The other militant killed was Tariq Ahmed Sheikh of Pulwama, who had reportedly joined militant ranks two months ago.

As the gunfight broke out mobile phone lines were snapped in Srinagar. Later in the day, mobile internet services were shut down in Pulwama.

The gunfight left destruction in its wake. According to the police, security forces used “maximum restraint” but “a few houses were damaged as militants kept changing locations”. Residents of downtown Srinagar told Scroll.in that two houses were razed to the ground, eight houses were completely burnt but still standing and two or three other houses were partially damaged.

Residents of downtown Srinagar watch as the gunfight unfolds.
A man holds up his hands as security forces take position during the gunfight.
Paramilitary soldiers patrol the winding streets of downtown Srinagar.
Residents spray water on a damaged house.
Debris left by the gunfight in downtown Srinagar.
Protesters pelt stones on security forces.
Protests and stonepelting broke out around the site of the gunfight.