SRINAGAR: Sparking fresh tensions in Kashmir, a civilian has been killed while dozens suffered injuries near an encounter site today morning in Anantnag district. A cop and two militants have also been killed in the ongoing gun-battle.

According to reports, a group of militants holed up in a residential house opened fire at a joint team of forces who had launched a cordon and search operation in Srigufwara village of the restive south Kashmir today morning.

Officials said the house-owner identified as Muhammad Yousuf Rather and his wife, Hafeeza, were injured when an exchange of gunfire broke out between security forces and heavily-armed militants. It was not immediately known whose fire hit the couple.

“They were brought to sub-district hospital Bijbehara for treatment where Rather was pronounced dead on arrival while his wife Hafeeza was shifted to SKIMS in Srinagar for specialized treatment due to grave injuries on her,” a health official in Anantnag said.

Police sources said two army soldiers and a cop of J&K Police’s counterinsurgency unit were injured in the exchange of fire out of whom the cop succumbed to injuries at a hospital. “The condition of Army soldiers is critical,” the official said.

Massive clashes are going on near the site of the gunfight and in adjoining areas. Witnesses said dozens of young boys are marching towards the encounter site to help the militants in escaping.

Amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, youth pelted stones at the forces to disrupt their operation against the besieged militants, believed to be four in number, who responded by firing teargas and pellets.

Sources in the health department said at least dozen injured civilians were brought for treatment at two hospitals in south Kashmir. The exchange of gunfire between the militants and the forces was going on when this report was filed.

"The bodies of two militants are laying at the encounter site. But there are more militants hiding in the house who are continuously firing at the forces," police sources said.

This is the first civilian killing after the border state was pushed under the Governor’s rule following the withdrawal of support by the BJP to the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government that lasted for little over two years.

As per official data, over 40 civilians have been killed in clashes with government forces in or around the encounter sites in Kashmir this year so far. The toll may go up as forces are likely to intensify operations against militants.

The latest killing comes amid reports that a group of the elite NSG commandos have been deployed in Srinagar to undergo training in real-life combat situations. They are likely to assist the forces in counter-insurgency operations.

( Cover Photo: BASIT ZARGAR )