SRINAGAR: A young civilian was killed during clashes with government forces near the site of an encounter in south Kashmir where five militants were gunned down today morning. Close to two dozen protesters suffered injuries in clashes near the encounter site.

Officials said the deceased identified as Rouf Ahmad Ganaie, a resident of Anchidora, was critically injured after being hit by a bullet near the gunfight site after the encounter, in which a group of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen were gunned down, was over today afternoon.

They said the victim was given medial aid and rushed to a hospital in Srinagar. However, he died before the treatment could reach him. “Saleem had sustained a bullet wound in his neck,” a source at Kulgam hospital where the victim was initially treated, said.

It was not immediately known whether the deceased was part of the protest that broke out in the area against the encounter.

A joint team of police, army and CRPF last night laid siege of Chowgam village in Kulgam district following inputs about the presence of militants in the area. “We established the contact with militants last night but the operation was suspended due to darkness,” SSP Kulgam Harmeet Singh said.

Today morning, as the news of the encounter spread, locals of Chowgam and adjoining villages gathered near the site. They started pelting stones at the forces in an attempt to break the siege and help the holed up militants in escaping.

Witnesses said the the government forces used live fire, pellets and teargas to keep the demonstrators at bay. However, during clashes, close to 24 protesters were injured, “Two of the injured have suffered bullet injuries. They are admitted at SKIMS and their condition is critical,” sources said.

Meanwhile, security forces used an improvised explosive device to blast the house in which the five militants were trapped, leading to their death, “Bodies of the slain along with weapons and other warlike stores were recovered,” a police spokesman said.

The spokesman identified the slain militants as Gulzar Ahmad Padder alias Saif, Faisal Ahmad Rather alias Dawood and Zahid Ahmad Mir alias Hashim, all residents of Kulgam. The other two militants are Masroor Molvi alias Abu Darda and Zahoor Ahmad Lone alias Rehman Bhai from from Anantnag district.

In the wake of the encounter, authorities have suspended internet services in parts of south Kashmir including Kulgam and Anantnag while railway authorities have also suspended train services in the valley.

(Cover photo: Representational Image by BASIT ZARGAR)