SRINAGAR: A fiery gunfight in North Kashmir that was raging for three days came to an end today with the killing of two militants. A CRPF officer among five security personnel and a civilian have been already killed during the gun-battle.

“The encounter is over. Two militants have been killed,” SP Pani, police chief of Kashmir region said, adding that their identities are yet to be ascertained.

"This operation posed considerable difficulties to the security forces due to the topography of the area. Area where the terrorists were hiding was very congested and civilians in the adjoining houses had to be evacuated to the safer places away from the site of encounter,” a Jammu and Kashmir police spokesman said.

An inspector and two jawans of CRPF and two J&K Police cops were killed in the gun-battle that broke out on Thursday night. A militant, presumed to be dead, rose from the rubble on Friday, when a combing operation was on, and opened fire on forces.

Since then, the surviving militant was giving a tough fight to security forces who blasted at least four structures in the area to kill him. However, he continued to change location.

At least nine security personnel, including a CRPF commandant, were injured when the militant fired indiscriminately at security forces who had gone to retrieve the bodies of militants presumed to be dead in the operation.

On Friday, a civilian was also killed while close to dozen civilian protesters suffered firearm injuries when forces opened fire at a stone-pelting mob that tried to disrupt the anti-militancy operation.

The encounter in Handwara is the second deadliest gunfight in Kashmir after the February 14 suicide bombing. On February 18, an Army major among four soldiers and a J&K police constable were killed in an encounter barely few kilometres from the site of suicide bombing.

The spike in Kashmir violence comes amid a massive crackdown on separatists, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and their activists, and the fresh flare-ups on the Line of Control last night that has sparked migration in the border areas.

The armies of India and Pakistan shelled each other’s locations in Mendhar tehsil of Poonch district yesterday night even as the border districts in Jammu and Kashmir have recorded dozens of ceasefire violations.

“A woman and her two children were injured but their condition is stable,” officials said.

Meanwhile, the J&K Police, after the union home ministry banned the J&K Jamaat-e-Islami for five years earlier this week, has launched a crackdown on the organisation with at least 25 offices of the group sealed in punitive action by the state government, evoking condemnation from the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party.

(Cover photograph of PDP protest in Srinagar from BASIT ZARGAR)