SRINAGAR: Four suspected militants were killed while at least eight protesters suffered pellet and bullet injuries in violent clashes with government forces that erupted following an encounter in a central Kashmir village today morning.

Officials said a search party of the J&K Police's SOG, the Army's 10 Garhwal and CRPF cordoned off Futlipora village, near the historic Chrari Sharief town of Budgam district, following inputs about the presence of a group of militants.

“As our forces closed in on the hideout, the militants opened fire. In the exchange of gunfire, four militants were killed,” an Army officer said. Sources said three of them are foreigners while the fourth is a local who was involved in a unn snatching incident reported at a bank in the town.

The identity of the militants has not been ascertained so far.

“All the militants hiding in a residential house in the village have been killed. A mopping up operation is underway but the encounter has ended,” the officer said. Residents said the forces blasted the residential house, owned by one Mohammed Asadullah, to rubble in order to kill the militants.

Earlier, an Army convoy was reportedly intercepted by residents of the adjoining Pakharpora village who tried to prevent it from reaching the village where the encounter was underway, provoking the army men who resorted to aerial firing to disperse the protesters.

At least three protesters, including a teenager, suffered injuries as violent clashes erupted in Pakharpora, “During the clashes, 15-year-old Sinar Ahmad Mir sustained a bullet injury in his face who was referred to Chrar hospital. He is out of danger,” a medical officer in Budgam said.

Witnesses said angry residents, including women and children, from Futlipora, tried to break the cordon around the encounter site to help the militants in escaping, sparking violent clashes.

“Eight protesters were brought to Pakharpora hospital and health centres in adjoining area. Five of them had pellet injuries while three of them had bullet injuries. But all of them are stable and out of danger,” the officer said, adding that five were brought from Futlipora where the encounter took place.

Meanwhile, authorities have suspended mobile internet service in Budgam and south Kashmir’s Pulwama district following the gunfight as a “precautionary measure to prevent rumour mongering”. According to reports, a spontaneous shutdown is being observed in parts of the twin districts in protest against the killing.

In north Kashmir’s Sopore town, a suspected militant has been killed while a paratrooper was injured in an ongoing encounter that started in Zaloora village today morning. According to reports, two more militants are believed to be hiding in the area.

Security forces have launched 'Operation All-Out' against militants in Kashmir region following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani last year. More than 190 militants have been killed in the operation this year, including the top leadership of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba. However, the recruitment of local youth into militancy has kept the Valley on boil.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR of Srinagar last week)