SRINAGAR: After weapon-snatching from security personnel, a new trend of bank robberies by suspected militants is beginning to pose another challenge to the security agencies who are struggling to control the protests in Kashmir.

Two banks were looted by unidentified gunmen in a span of couple of hours in south Kashmir's Pulwama district on Wednesday, throwing open a new window of challenge for government forces who are grappling to contain anti-India and pro-freedom protests.

In the first incident, three masked gunmen, according to police, barged into a branch of Elaquai Dehati Bank in Wahibugh village of Pulwama district, some 30 km south of Srinagar city, at around 2 pm on Wednesday.

Police said the armed men looted around Rs 5 lakh rupees from the bank while the bank officials didn't put up any resistance and handed over the cash to them. Before the police could arrive, the suspects had managed to escape from the area.

Some two hours later, masked gunmen surfaced in the adjoining Kakpora village where they looted INR 1.3 lakh from a branch of the J&K Bank. Again, despite an alarm being sounded, gunmen managed to disappear from the area by the time the police and Army arrived.

Police said militant outfits are responsible for the twin robberies which come a day after similar gang of unknown gunmen looted sixty five thousand rupees from Elaquai Dehati Bank in the adjoining Kulgam district. However, no militant outfit has claimed responsibility of the robberies.

"It has come to fore that cash amounting Rs 4.92 lakhs and Rs 1.49 lakhs, respectively has been looted from Elaquai Dehati Bank and JKB,” police said in a statement on Wednesday.

“As per the statements and identification of eye-witnesses Lashker e Toiba terrorists Arif Dar @Rehan @Arif Manager of Lelhar Kakapora, Majid Mir@Abass of Kakapora and Shabir Dar of Aghanzpora, Padgampora have been identified so far as involved in the both the cases,” the statement said.

Police has also announced reward for information leading these militants.

Bank robberies by gunmen is a relatively new phenomenon in Kashmir where security agencies have been kept on toes by a wave of anti-India and pro-freedom protests since last year when Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by Indian forces, sparking a civilian unrest.

"It is a disturbing new trend which opens another window of challenge for armed forces involved in counter insurgency operations in Kashmir. But we will deal with it firmly. Banks may be asked to step up their security," a police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

Meanwhile, the J&K police Wednesday announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for information leading to the arrest of militants involved in Kulgam attack which left fove cops and two security guards of J&K Bank dead on Monday.

Police has identified one Umar Majeed, 22, a Hizb militant, as the attacker in Kulgam and his reward posters were pasted at many places in Kulgam. A resident of Soach in Kulgam, sources said he was identified with the help of locals as well as the driver of the van that came under attack on Monday in Pombai village of Kulgam.