SRINAGAR: The family of a 31-year-old youth, who died under suspect circumstances during an encounter in capital Srinagar earlier this week, has accused the government forces of beating him to death.

Rayees Sofi, who ran a bakery out of the first storey, was killed when forces raided their four-storied house in Fateh Kadal locality of downtown Srinagar on Wednesday. Two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants and a policeman were also killed in the encounter.

“At midnight, forces barged into our home and started beating us up without rhyme or reason. Then they went upstairs and started assaulting Rayees, asking him to lead them to militants. I could hear his screams saying that he was innocent but they didn’t let us go up,” Shakeela, mother of Rayees said.

According to family, Rayees was taken away by government forces while his father, Habibullah Sofi suffered a minor cardiac arrest, “His (Rayees’s) brother (Mudasir) rushed him (Habibullah) to a hospital. All this while, I was hoping that Rayees will return home soon,” Shakeela said.

As the encounter ended, a pall of gloom descended on the family when they came to know that Rayees has also been killed. “When they were taking him (Rayees) away, I begged them to let him go. He was innocent. He has a one-year-old child and he worked hard to provide not only for his family but for us also,” Shakeela said.

However, police has said that Rayees refused to come out of the house when the “contact was established with militants,” “The complicity of Rayees Ahmad who was part of the group in providing shelter and logistics to the militants is being investigated,” a J&K Police spokesperson said in a statement.

Two militants, including Mehraj-ud-Din Bangroo, a top Lashkar-e-Toiba strategist from Fateh Kadal who brought the capital Srinagar on the militancy map, were killed in the encounter that sparked massive protests across the city. Bangroo had come to visit his family when forces laid siege of the congested locality.

(Cover photograph BASIT ZARGAR of the Srinagar Fateh Kadal encounter)