SRINAGAR: In one of the deadliest days in Kashmir this year, massive clashes near a site of encounter resulted in the killing of seven civilian protesters today morning in alleged firing by security forces.

Three militants, reportedly affiliated with the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit, were gunned down in the encounter in Pulwama district which left another Army soldier in a critical state.

Officials identified the civilians as Shahbaz Ali, Suhail Ahmad, Liyaqat Ahmad, Murtaza, Tawseef Ahmad, Amir Ahmad Palla and Abid Hussain Lone, residents of villages adjoining Kharpur Sirnoo area of Pulwama where an encounter broke out today morning.

Massive clashes broke out in the area after news spread that a group of militants, reportedly including a top commander, were trapped in a residential house and security forces were trying to blast the building in order to kill them.

Amid anti-India, pro-Pakistan and pro-freedom slogans, dozens of youngsters, many of whom had walked on foot or rode on bikes from the adjoining villages, deceased reportedly among them, clashed with security forces as the encounter was going on, in order to help the holed up militants in escaping.

Witnesses said security forces fired live ammunition, including bullets and pellets, at the protesters who were pelting stones to disrupt the operation, resulting in injuries to nearly dozen civilians.

There were no reports of any injury to security personnel.

“Seven civilians from the encounter site were brought to different hospitals where they have passed away. More than dozen are injured,” Medical Superintendent of Pulwama district hospital, Dr Abdul Rashid Parra, said.

Earlier, the gunfight left three militants dead while one army soldier was injured. According to some reports, the three slain militants belonged to Hizb ul Mujahideen outfit and one of them is a commander.

There was no official confirmation about the identity of the militants, although police has recovered bodies of three suspects from the rubble of the house.

According to official data, over 230 militants have been gunned down in various parts of the border state this year, which has turned out to be the deadliest in recent years.

A large number of the killed militants are local, disillusioned youths, a young university professor, for example, who were killed days or at most weeks after their entry into the world of militancy.

While the kill list of militants is at all-time high in last decade, more than hundred civilians have been shot dead this year and most of the killings have been blamed on security forces, including the shooting of nearly three dozens youngsters near the encounter sites.

Police however has blamed such killings on ‘cross fire’.

“Another blood soaked weekend in Kashmir. 6 protestors killed, 1 solider killed in the line of duty. Together with the 3 militants from this morning’s encounter that’s 10 dead. Reports of many injured at the encounter site. What a horrible day!” former CM Omar Abdullah tweeted.

“Any way you look at it this was a badly executed encounter. Protests around encounter sites are now the norm not the exception. Why are we unable to learn how to handle them better?” he said in another tweet.

“Terror and Trauma on Kashmiri’s continues unabated as Killing pursued as a state policy! Today morning two young civilians Aamir Ahmad and Abid Hussain of Pulwama fired upon directly by Indian forces killed on spot,scores injured while three armed youth are martyred! Ask Govt…. Govt of India to stop this inhumanity as it will not achieve anything except further rebellion and hatred (sic),” moderate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted.