SRINAGAR: A day after militants carried out one of the deadliest strikes this year by killing four policemen, security forces last night went on the rampage in south Kashmir. Two houses of active militants were torched while nearly two dozen persons, including the father of the Hizbul Mujahideen’s Kashmir chief Riyaz Naikoo, were ‘arbitrarily’ arrested.

According to reports the home of Shahjahan, a Hizb militant, in Amshipora village of Shopian district was raided last night by security forces who asked members of his family to come out for searches.

“The Army then sprinkled some powder on the house and set it ablaze. With the help of locals, we doused the flames but it had already caused damage worth lakhs of rupees,” said a family member.

The home of another militant, Syed Naveed, in Nazneenpora village of Shopian district, was also set ablaze by the forces during a search operation last night. Witnesses said the fire was immediately brought under control.

Neither the Army nor the Jammu and Kashmir Police could be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.

The incidents come a day after suspected militants gunned down four policemen in Shopian district who formed part of the escort of a senior police officer of the J&K Police’s elite Special Operations Group. This was hours after top Hizb commander Altaf Kachroo was gunned down with an associate in Anantnag district.

A senior police officer would neither confirm nor deny whether the attack on the policemen was linked to the killing of the Hizb commander in Anantnag.

Meanwhile, the father of top Hizb commander Riyaz Naikoo was arrested by forces during a night raid in Awantipora area of Pulwama district. Reports said forces raided Naikoo's house in Beighpora and detained his father Asadullah Naikoo (70).

Riyaz, the oldest surviving militant in Kashmir, has been active since 2012 and is field operations commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen. He recently threatened to carry out acid attacks on those who contest or participate in the Panchayat elections scheduled from next month.

Security forces also carried out nocturnal raids in parts of south Kashmir last night during which at least two dozen youths were detained. According to reports, forces detained at least 10 youths during a night-long search operation in the Murran area of Pulwama, where residents also accused the raiding party of damaging many residential houses. At least eight youth were detained during searches in the villages of Gudoora, Wapora and Gudibugh in south Kashmir.

The security situation has worsened in Kashmir in the run up to the Panchayat polls with militants launching a series of attacks on security forces and mainstream political activists. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Pulwama constituency president, Shabir Bhat, was killed by militants last week, sparking fear and anguish in the mainstream camp.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR of Anantnag encounter earlier)