SRINAGAR: Defying restrictions, thousands of people converged in the restive Tral town of south Kashmir to attend the funeral prayers of three militants who were killed in an overnight encounter with security forces.

A senior J&K Police officer identified the slain militants as Ishaq Ahmad Parray, a resident of Laribal in Tral. The officer said Ishaq had earned the alias 'Newton' due to his meritorious academic record after he scored 98.4 percent marks in Class 10 and 85 percent in Class 12.

According to family sources, Ishaq left home in Laribal village near Tral in March last year to join the militants when he was just 19. "He was preparing for the Common Entrance Test. He wanted to become a doctor. He used to offer five time prayers but we don't know what inspired him to join militants,” a family member, wishing anonymity, said.

The other two militants are Asif Ahmad Mir alias Chotu, a resident of Dadasar in Tral where the encounter broke out yesterday evening and Aashiq Hussain Bhat, of Charsoo village in Anantnag. Both of them were recent entrants to 'New Insurgency' in Kashmir Valley with Asif joining in 2013.

Officials said the encounter broke out Wednesday evening following specific inputs about the presence of trio in a residential house in Dadsara area of Tral. As the two sides began to exchange gunfire, a large crowd of locals poured onto the streets and started shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.

"Pro-freedom songs were played on public address systems of mosques to rally support for the trapped militants. Locals tried to march towards the residential house where the militants were holed up in an attempt to help them in escaping. However, these attempts were foiled even as our forces came under intense stone-pelting," the police officer said.

Recently, the state government issued an advisory, calling for imposition of section 144 within 2.5 km radius of the site of encounters, which also prevents assembly of four of more people near such sites. The advisory also directs people to stay inside their homes and not peep out of windows.

The encounter was called off on Thursday morning after which three bodies were recovered from the site of gun-battle which were later handed over to locals for burial. Some arms and ammunition were also recovered from the slain militants.

According to police, the three militants were latest entrants to 'New Insurgency' in Kashmir which has attracted well-educated youths belonging to financially sound families. According to a police census, about 80 youths, mostly from south Kashmir areas, have joined militant ranks in the last one and half year.

(Picture: Pampore encounter BASIT ZARGAR)