SRINAGAR: Security forces appear to have intensified counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir with nearly two dozen youth detained and eight militants, including a teenager who had joined militancy last month, and two Army soldiers getting killed in separate incidents since yesterday.

According to an Army spokesperson, two militants and an Army soldier were killed in an encounter that broke out today morning in Pazalpora village of north Kashmir’s Sopore. Clashes erupted after the news of encounter spread in the area with agitated youngsters pelting stones at forces who responded with teargas shelling.

“A soldier Brijesh Kumar suffered injuries in initial exchange of gunfire and later succumbed at the Army hospital. All educational institutions have been asked to remain closed in view of the prevailing situation,” SSP Sopore Javid Iqbal, said.

The encounter came a day after the security forces gunned down six militants in two encounters in Arwani area of south Kashmir’s Bijbehara and north Kashmir’s Kreeri area. While the four militants killed in Arwani were all locals youths, one of the slain militants in Kreeri encounter was identified as 17-year-old Aqeel Sofi from Baramulla who had joined militants in September this year.

This morning, intense clashes broke out in parts of Kulgam district between protesters and security forces as locals began preparations for the funerals of the militants killed in Arwani gun-battle. “Several youth were injured as forces fired teargas and pellets to disperse the protesters,” sources said.

Meanwhile, security forces have intensified the crackdown on sympathisers of separatists and militants with nearly two dozen youth detained from different parts of Kashmir on charges of either being overground workers of militants or pelting stones at security forces.

Police sources said nine youth were detained from the restive Shopian district yesterday. Last month, six youth from the same district were held under the Public Safety Act, a legislation described by Amnesty International as “lawless law”, and shifted to jails outside Kashmir.

Last night, sources said, a joint party of Police, Army and paramilitary descended on Karmabad village of Pulwama district and detained two more youth. Sources said four more youth from Chanpora locality have been called up for questioning by Srinagar police while five youth have been detained in Sopore.

“We have proof against these boys and they are being called up for questioning for their role in different law and order situations. Some of them were let go last year after their parents gave in writing that their wards will not indulge in any anti-government activity but they are doing it again,” a senior police officer said.