Youth Shot, Kashmir Shuts Down
SRINAGAR: Following the Hurriyat's call, Kashmir Valley is observing a shutdown following a day of intense violence yesterday which resulted in the killing of two civilians, including a teenager, six policemen and three suspected militants.
The Hurriyat issued the shutdown call yesterday in protest against the civilian killings in south Kashmir's Kulgam district near the site of an encounter during which three suspected militants, including a Lashkar-e-Toiba commander, were killed.
The shutdown call has also been issued by the business fraternity in protest against bringing J&K under the ambit of Goods and Service Tax regime which they claim "erodes the fiscal autonomy" enjoyed by the state under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
Authorities have imposed restrictions in parts of the capital Srinagar as well as the district headquarters of the Valley where extra police and paramilitary forces are deployed and checkpoints are set up to foil any protests against the civilian killings yesterday.
Trains service has also been suspended and traffic has been halted on the Srinagar-Jammu highway as a precautionary measure, officials said. "Some educational institutions have also been closed and all exams scheduled today have been postponed," they said.
Security has also been stepped up in the restive south Kashmir areas, the epicentre of violence yesterday, where six policemen, including a station house officer, were shot dead during an ambush by suspected militants in Achabal area of Anantnag district.
The attack, claimed by Lashkar-e-Toiba, came barely hours after the group's district commander for Kulgam district, Junaid Mattu, was reportedly killed in an encounter at Arwani village along with his two associates who were identified as Nasir Wani of Heff village of Shopian and Adil Mushtaq Mir of Frestbal, Pampore.
Locals said the forces blasted the houses where the militants were holed up using Improvised Explosive Devices and later set fire to them using petrol due to which the bodies of militants were charred beyond recognition. Three bodies have been recovered from the site of encounter today morning.
Two civilians, including a 14-year-old boy, were shot dead in retaliatory action by security forces who came under attack by mobs of stone-throwing youth while they were engaged in the encounter in Arwani, a trend that has become a routine during counter-insurgency ops as locals come to the help of trapped militants.
Police however said the civilians were killed in "cross-fire", "When the encounter was on an unruly mob instigated by the militants started pelting stones with an intention to disturb the operation and give chance to holed up militants to escape. Some of the militants also fired from within the crowd indiscriminately on the security forces engaged in the encounter," police spokesman said.
"In the cross firing, some people were injured. The injured were shifted to hospital. Two civilians succumbed to their injuries," he said.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference, Congress as well as the separatist leaders condemned the civilian killings, "I reiterated it time and again that violence and innocent killings would lead the State only to a cobweb bloodletting and destruction and uncertainty rather than paving the way for any peaceful solution," Mehbooba said, according to the official spokesperson.