Kashmir Toll Rises: Soldier, Civilians Die in Ongoing Encounter
SRINAGAR: A minor boy among three civilian protesters have been shot dead allegedly by security forces near the site of an ongoing encounter in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district where an army soldier has been killed so far in exchange of gunfire with suspected militants earlier today.
Officials said the deceased, identified as Bilal Ahmad Dar, 13, a resident of Kujjar village in Qaimoh tehsil of Kulgam district, was declared brought dead at sub-district hospital Qaimoh. He was brought there from the site of clashes.
Another civilian, Sharjeel Ahmed Sheikh, 28, was hit by a bullet in abdomen near the site of clashes between protesters and security forces in Kulgam district where two suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba militants are trapped in an encounter in Khudwani village, a hot-bed of separatism.
The third civilian who was also killed by firearm injuries has been identified as Faisal Ilahi, sources said.
“He was referred to Kulgam hospital from where he was shifted to Anantnag hospital. But he succumbed to injuries during treatment,” a doctor who attended to the slain youth said, adding that at least half dozen wounded protesters were brought to different hospitals from the site of clashes.
Police said the encounter erupted late last night following inputs about the presence of militants. “A joint team of the army and special operations group of police cordoned off the area and appealed the militants to surrender,” a senior police officer said.
The officer said the militants however opened fire on the forces which was retaliated, resulting in injuries to three personnel of forces, “One of them has succumbed while the condition of the other two is critical but stable. They have been sent to Srinagar for specialized treatment,” the police officer said.
As soon as the news of encounter spread in the village, hundreds of residents started gathering around the house and pelted stones at the forces, apparently to distract the security personnel in an attempt to help the holed up militants in escaping from the siege.
Witnesses and sources said the forces fired teargas and pellets to disperse the protesters who were trying to disrupt the anti-militancy operation but they didn’t relent following which the Army opened fire, “They shot directly at the protesters, resulting in injuries to many of them,” witnesses said.
As the gun-battle is raging, authorities have suspended mobile internet services in Kulgam district to prevent any law and order problems. All the educational institutions have also been ordered to remain closed, “The area is cordoned off and the protesters have been pushed back to prevent further collateral damage. There is no way the militants are going to escape,” the officer said.
Forces used high grade explosives to blast the house where the militants are trapped, sparking a blaze that has spread to adjoining houses and commercial buildings, witnesses said.
Meanwhile, violent clashes are going on in the area with local residents indulging in dingdong stone battles with the forces. The latest civilian killings has added to the tensions prevailing in Kashmir following last weekend's violence in which five civilians and 13 militants were killed by security forces.
As per official data, more than two dozen civilians have been killed in clashes with government forces near encounter sites this year, sparking anger across Kashmir where a massive operation against militants combined with the NIA raids on separatists have done little too contain the rage on the streets.