SRINAGAR: The Army blasted and later set fire to a house, where the lone surviving militant was putting up a tough fight since yesterday, bringing an end to over 24-hour long siege in south Kashmir.

Three militants have been killed and two officers of Army and CRPF were injured during the encounter in south Kashmir's Pulwama district which broke out yesterday morning. More than three dozen civilian protesters also suffered injuries during clashes.

Forces had cordoned off the Bahmnoo village in Pulwama on Monday morning following inputs about presence of militants there. Drones were flown and special commandoes of the Army engaged the militants.

"While two militants were killed yesterday, another put up a tough fight, shifting his location from one house to another which prolonged the siege. He was also killed today morning," a senior police officer said.

The militants who were killed yesterday have been identified as Kifayat and Jehangir Khandey. The identity of the third militant has not been ascertained so far. Three houses were totally destroyed during the encounter.

Officials said since yesterday morning, hundreds of men, women and children from the adjoining Shopian and Anantnag districts tried to break the perimeter as security forces closed in on a cluster of houses where the militants were believed to be holed up.

During violent clashes between locals and security forces, over three dozens protesters were wounded with at least six having suffered bullet injuries and two were referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment in a critical state.

Officials said an army major and a CRPF sub-inspector were injured in the initial exchange of fire when militants tried to break the cordon. “A mopping operation is underway at the encounter site. Some arms and ammunition have been recovered. We are in the process of identifying the militants and their affiliations," the officer said.

Security agencies have launched a massive offensive against militants whose ranks ave swelled since the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in an encounter last year that sparked off a mass civilian uprising in the country.

According to official data, over dozen militants were killed in last fortnight alone, including top three commanders - Sabzar Bhat, Bashir Lashkari and Junaid Mattu - during encounters with security forces. Another more than 50 youth, who were allegedly planning to join militants, were arrested from different areas of the Valley.

The offensive against militants follows the announcement of the union home minister Rajnath Singh earlier this year that the Centre will bring about a "permanent solution" to the Kashmir problem and that the "situation will improve in the next two to three months".

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)