SRINAGAR: An Army officer among four soldiers were killed by militants in the restive south Kashmir’s Pulwama district today morning. A civilian, who was injured during the exchange of firing between the two sides, has also succumbed.

Two militants, suspected to be belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad were killed in the ongoing encounter. According to reports, one of the killed militants is Kamran, who reportedly masterminded the February 14 suicide bombing in Pulwama. However, the police didn’t give more details about the operation.

Police sources said a joint team of the Army, Jammu and Kashmir police’s counter insurgency unit and paramilitary troopers laid siege of Pinglena village in south Kashmir last night following inputs about presence of militants.

The village falls in Pulwama district where a suicide bomber rammed his explosive laden car into a paramilitary convoy, killing at least 49 CRPF troopers last Thursday. Sources said the cordon was linked to the manhunt launched by forces to nab the associates of Valentines Day bomber.

“As the cordon was established and the forces moved towards the hideout, the hiding militants opened fire, resulting in injuries to five Army persons,” police sources said.

An army officer identified as Major DS Dondial, who was leading the operation, was among the critically injured soldiers, sources said.

An Army source said four soldiers were killed before they could be rushed to the hospital for treatment. The other slain soldiers have been identified as Head Constable Save Ram, Sepoy Ajay Kumar and Sepoy Hari Singh.

"The critically injured soldiers identified as Sepoy Gulzar Mohd has been evacuated to army's 92 base hospital Badamibagh Srinagar for treatment and his condition is critical," the officer said.

Sources said a civilian identified as Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat, son of Mohammad Sultan Bhat, a resident of Pinglena village, suffered severe bullet injuries in the exchange of gunfight. He was taken to a hospital where doctors declared him brought dead.

According to reports, he is the owner of the house where the militants had taken refuge. It was not immediately known how the civilian suffered bullet injuries during the exchange of gunfire between militants and security forces.

After the Army suffered early casualties, the cordon of the joint team of forces was broken, “We called in extra reinforcements to intensify the searches and the cordon was extended to other villages in order to nab the militants,” officials said.

Following a fresh exchange of gunfire, police said two bodies have been recovered from the site of the encounter who are believed to be Jaish-e-Mohammad militants. Their identities have not been revealed so far. One militant reportedly managed to escape from the area, although the operation is still going on.

The casualties suffered by the Army during the encounter are highest in recent months and it comes barely days after a suicide bomber targeted a CRPF convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu highway in Pulwama district, killing at least 49 paramilitary troopers.