SRINAGAR: Despite a massive military crackdown, a group of militants today appeared in broad daylight at the funeral of their comrade in South Kashmir who was gunned down in an encounter with government forces yesterday and offered him a gun salute.

Witnesses said a group of militants surfaced during the funeral of Adil Chopan, 17, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant who was killed in an encounter yesterday in Seer area of Tral town, and fired shots in the air as a mark of respect for their fallen comrade.

“Four militants surfaced in the funeral that was held today morning in Luro, the native village of Adil. The atmosphere was electrifying and people were hugging and kissing the militants. They fired few shots in the air and then disappeared,” a resident of Tral who attended the funeral told The Citizen over phone.

Witnesses said thousands of people, including women and children, turned up to participate in the funeral of Adil, who had a miraculous escape when Sabzar Bhat, a top Hizb militant was killed along with his associate Faizan Ahmad, while Adil was rescued from the encounter site by the locals in May this year.

Amid anti-India and pro-freedom sloganeering, thousands today marched with the coffin of Adil as it was being taken to the graveyard. Emotions ran high as angry women beat their chests while others showered candies and petals on the body of the slain militant who had joined militancy after the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani last year.

Authorities have suspended mobile internet service in the area since yesterday while security has been beefed up to prevent any law and order problems. A complete shutdown is being observed in the area against the killing, “These are precautionary measures to ensure that the peace is not disturbed,” SSP Pulwama, Mohammad Aslam, said.

Meanwhile, three suspected foreign militants were gunned down in an encounter with government forces in north Kashmir's Handwara district today morning. Police sources said a joint party laid a siege around Khar Mohalla following inputs about presence of militants in the locality.

“As the joint party approached the suspect place, the hiding militants opened fire, sparking an encounter in which three militants have been killed,” sources said. In a tweet, Director General of J&K Police SP Vaid said three militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba were killed in Magam area of Handwara today. “Excellent work,” he tweeted.

Government forces have made major breakthrough in the fight against armed insurgency in Kashmir this year with at least 193 militants, majority of them foreigners, killed in encounters this year, although the rate of local recruitment remains at all time high in last seven years.

“It (recruitment of local militants) is a cause of concern but along with the civil administration and the army, we are taking a number of measures to ensure that our youth don’t fall prey to the propaganda of militants. Those who have picked arms and want to return to mainstream will be adequately rehabilitated,” SSP Aslam said.

(Photographs BASIT ZARGAR of funeral of another militant Mugais Mir in Pampora last Saturday)