Srinagar: Three civilians and an Army jawan have been killed during a fire fight and simultaneous street clashes in Jammu and Kashmir’s southern Kulgam district.
The police sources in Srinagar said that the fighting between a group of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants and the security forces broke out on Wednesday morning after the later laid siege to Wani Mohalla (locality) of Khudwani area in Kulgam. At least, two gunmen are believed to have been trapped inside a private house.
The officials said a cordon-and-search operation was launched jointly by the Army’s 1 Rashtriya Rifles, the counterinsurgency Special Operations Group (SOG) of the J&K police and Central Reserve Police Force following a tip off about the presence of militants in Wani Mohalla. While the soldiers were moving into the locality, gun shots were heard and with that the encounter started, said a local resident.
During the initial exchange of gunfire, three security force personnel received grievous injuries, the sources said adding that they were rushed to Srinagar’s 92 Base Army hospital where one of the injured Army jawans succumbed.
While the fire fight was underway, surging crowds made repeated attempts to relocate to the encounter site and soon clashed with the security forces, the officials said.
The security forces opened fire on alleged stone-pelters, killing three persons including 16-year-old Bilal Ahmad Tantray of Qoimoh village of Kulgam. The other slain civilian has been identified as Sharjeel Ahmad Sheikh. The third youth, Faisal Illahi, who was injured in the shooting succumbed to his injuries in a local hospital.
The police officials said they may have been caught in crossfire between holed up militants and security forces but added that proper investigation alone will determine how they were killed.
The slain soldier has been identified as 24-year-old Sada Gunakara Rao, a resident of village Atisurikaviti of Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. Rao who is survived by his parents had joined the Army in 2012, a defence spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the J&K police said three civilians who died in Kulgam were caught in crossfire.
A statement issued by Army in Srinagar read, "The three civilians Sarjeel Sheikh of Khudwani , Bilal Ah Tantray of Frisal and Faisal Ilahi of Melhoora Shopian who were injured in the cross fire have also succumbed to their injuries."
Reports from Kulgam said that the security forces also used batons and fired teargas canisters and pellet shotguns to quell the protests, injuring about 35 people.
Meanwhile, the authorities have placed key separatist leaders under house arrest, closed educational institutions in Kulgam and in a neighbouring district, suspended trains services between Srinagar and Banihal and snapped mobile internet services in southern parts of the Valley.
The civilian killings in Kulgam have sparked off protests in some other parts of the Valley including northwestern town of Sopore.
Wednesday’s incidents come close on the heels of days of disturbances witnessed in Kashmir Valley in the aftermath of the killing of 14 militants and 5 civilian in the security forces stepped up counterinsurgency measures during the first week of April....