SRINAGAR: Two youngsters were allegedly shot dead by Army after protests erupted in Handwara town of Kashmir Tuesday afternoon against a molestation bid on a local girl.

The deceased have been identified as Mohammad Iqbal and Nayeem Qadir Bhat, both in their twenties. Police said they were part of a protest that erupted in the frontier district town against an alleged molestation bid by a soldier of Army's 21 Rashtriya Rifles.

A senior police officer told The Citizen that the protests broke out when a woman was followed by an unidentified Army soldier to a bathroom. Tensions swelled in the town when a group of youth barged into the bathroom and dragged out the soldier.

"Soon a large crowd of people assembled in the area after which we deployed our cops on the scene. The charged mob resorted to intense stone pelting and attacked an Army bunker in main town of Handwara," the police officer said.

According to witnesses, the Army then opened fire on the demonstrators, injuring at least five people, four of whom suffered bullet injuries. One of the victims died on the spot while another passed away on way to a hospital in Srinagar.

Officials said the soldiers ran away from the bunker after firing at the protesters following which the bunker was set ablaze by youths.

The Army's Srinagar-based defence spokesman NN Joshi condemned the incident, saying that action will be taken against the guilty, "Army deeply regrets the unfortunate loss of life. Matter will be investigated and anybody found guilty will be dealt as per the law,” Joshi said.

The incident comes barely a week after the PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, who had targeted the previous government for human rights abuses in the state, was sworn into office as the 13th chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The twin killings will be the first challenge for her to walk the talk.

Both the factions of Hurriyat have called for a state-wide shutdown on Wednesday against the "cold blooded murder of two Kashmiri youths by Indian occupational forces".

A large crowd of youngsters accompanied by elderly and women have converged on the main square of the town where they are chanting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans. Protests were going on in the town when this report was filed.