SRINAGAR: Amid simmering tensions, a ninth-grade student was killed today in clashes between protesters and government forces near the site of an encounter in south Kashmir where a militant has also been killed.

Clashes broke out between local residents and forces in Padgampora village of Awantipora in south Kashmir today morning after the village was cordoned off following reports about presence of militants there.

During the encounter, officials said a militant was killed while another is still holed up. Security forces had brought the family of the militant, believed to be a local, to the site and used public address system to convince him to surrender.

Meanwhile, as soon as the news of encounter spread in the area, locals and people from adjoining villages marched to the encounter site and started pelting stones at the forces, apparently to divert their attention and help the militants in escaping.

During violent clashes between security forces and protesters, who tried to break the cordon around the encounter site, a 15-year-old boy was hit by firearms. He was taken to a local hospital where doctors declared him dead on arrival.

The killing has sparked tension in south Kashmir areas, which was the epicentre of last year's bloodied uprising during which nearly 100 civilians were killed in retaliatory action to curb protests by government forces. Clashes are going on in the area when this report was filed.

Officials said the deceased boy has been identified as Amir Nazir, a resident of adjoining Kakpora village. The identity of the slain militant has not been ascertained so far. Officials said nearly half dozen protesters have suffered injuries in the ongoing clashes.

Amid pro-freedom and anti-India sloganeering, the body of the slain boy was taken to his native home and preparations are underway to hold his funeral prayers. Authorities have imposed curfew-like restrictions in the area to prevent deterioration of law and order situation.

The trend of local youths coming to the rescue of militants trapped in encounters with government forces has been gaining currency in Kashmir after the killing of Burhan Wani last year along with his two associates.

Recently, the Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat also warned protesters to stay away from encounters sites, saying they will be treated as "anti-nationals" and "Over Ground Workers" of militants.

(Cover Picture BASIT ZARGAR)