SRINAGAR: Clashes have broken out in parts of South Kashmir as thousands of people gathered for the funeral prayers of three alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba militants who were killed in an overnight encounter with security forces in Anantnag district.

Clashes broke out between protesters and security forces in Moominabad and Dialgam villages of Anantnag district today morning where locals, agitated over militant killings, threw stones at forces who responded by firing teargas shells and stun grenades.

Authorities have snapped high speed mobile internet in south Kashmir while schools, which had opened only yesterday after summer vacations, were ordered to remain closed today in order to "prevent deterioration in law and order situation".

Witnesses said a complete shutdown is being observed in parts of Anantnag district in protest against the killings of militants, two of them locals, with shops and other business establishments shut in the main town where the movement of vehicular traffic was also minimal.

Three Lashkar militants, including two locals of the restive southern part of Kashmir, and a suspected Pakistani national, were killed in what the Director General of J&K Police, SP Vaid, described as "chance encounter" last night.

Sources said a team of the army’s 19 Rashtriya Rifles and Special Operations Group of J&K police laid an ambush at Sheikh Mohalla-Watergam near Anantnag town during which they spotted a group of militants travelling in a car.

“They were signalled to stop but the militants opened fire which was retaliated. A brief gunfight ensued in which three militants were killed. The gunfight barely lasted for five minutes,” a senior police official said.

The suspects were identified as Showkat Lohar, a category-A militant of Arwani, who joined Lashkar in August last year in the aftermath of the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani.

The second militant has been identified as Muzafar Hajam, category-B militant of Danweth, Kokernag who joined LeT ranks in January this year while the third militant is believed to from Pakistan.

Close to hundred youths, most of them from south Kashmir, have joined various militant outfits, according to official data, following Burhan's killing, with officials suspecting that many more are waiting in line to pick up arms.

Yesterday, in a statement, the J&K Police said it has held eight minor boys in the last month who had planned to joined militancy. The detainees were "counselled" and later handed over to their parents, a police spokesman said.

The latest militant killings come as the security forces have intensified counter-insurgency operations by launching a massive crackdown against separatists and their sympathisers in Kashmir.

The NIA has also opened cases against senior Hurriyat leaders, including veteran Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Geelani's son-in-law, in what is seen as an "arm-twisting" tactic of the central government.

In a recent interview with a national daily, J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti again reiterated her promise of holding talks with separatists for resolving the Kashmir problem but in absence of political will in New Delhi, the situation is deteriorating in the Valley.

(Cover Photograph (File) BASIT ZARGAR)