SRINAGAR: In further deterioration of the fragile situation in Kashmir, yet another civilian was shot dead by government forces in retaliatory action against protesters demanding the bodies of two militants who launched a suicide attack on an Army base in north Kashmir's Kupwara district on Thursday.

Three Army soldiers, including a captain-ranked officer, were killed in the pre-dawn raid by a group of suspected militants, believed to be foreigners, who managed to break through a three layer cordon around the Army's Artillery headquarters housing 155 Field regiment near Panzgam village.

Officials said the suspects hurled grenades at the posts inside the headquarters and fired indiscriminately, injuring 10 Army men, of whom three succumbed later. Two suspects, whose identity has not been confirmed so far, were killed in retaliatory fire while another militant reportedly escaped.

In an eerily familiar reaction, the news of encounter attracted hundreds of residents, including women and teenaged boys, from adjoining villages near the Army headquarter who, shouting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, demanded the bodies of the two militants. The protests soon turned violent and intense clashes broke out.

"Security personnel were forced to open fire on the violent mob, which was threatening to move towards the Army headquarters, resulting in the death of a 50-year-old man, Mohammad Yusuf. Our men were also injured," SSP Kupwara, Shamsher Hussain, said, adding that three more persons were also injured in firing but their condition is stable.

The fresh civilian killing was condemned by the separatist leadership in Kashmir who said that the "blood of martyrs" will not be allowed to go waste while asserting to continue with their movement. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and other political parties also condemned the killing.

Kashmir remains tense with protests and clashes breaking out almost on a daily basis in the Valley which has seen a surge in militancy-related attacks on forces and workers of political parties this year. Authorities yesterday banned 22 social media websites and instant messaging services for a month to prevent the situation from imploding into a full-blown rebellion.

Meanwhile, fresh clashes broke out in Shopian district, part of the volatile south Kashmir which was the epicentre of last year's bloodied uprising, when forces were laying siege to a village following inputs about the presence of militants there.

Witnessrs said youth took to streets as forces were cordoning off Sugan village in pursuit of militants and threw rocks at them. Clashes also broke out in Pulwama town of south Kashmir after students of a secondary school marched into the streets, demanding release of their colleagues arrested yesterday.

Authorities have responded to the simmering rage in Kashmir by cracking down on the protesters and arresting pro-freedom activists and Hurriyat leaders. Chief of Dukhtaran-e-Millat, a party affiliated with Syed Ali Geelani-led Hurriyat, Asiya Andrabi, was arrested in a nocturnal raid at her residence in Srinagar Wednesday night.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)