Two suspected militants were gunned down in an encounter with security forces in the heart of Srinagar city late Monday evening, hours after three police personnel were shot dead by unknown gunmen.

Senior police officers said a search operation was launched in Maharaja Bazar, a congested marketplace on the banks of Jehlum river in Srinagar, following inputs about the presence of militants there.

“Militants opened fire at the security forces from a residential house which was retaliated, triggering a gunfight in which two militants were killed,” SP Srinagar (East), Sheikh Faisal Qayoom, said.

One of the slain suspects has been identified as Saifullah, whom the police described as a "top commander" of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit.

There were reports that a militant was captured alive by the forces from the encounter site, a claim which was denied by the forces

The encounter took place barely hours after three policemen, including an assistant sub inspector, were shot dead in two separate incidents by unknown gunmen in Srinagar.

In the first incident, militants shot at a police party at Mill Stop in Zadibal area of Srinagar. Two policemen died on the spot who were identified as assistant sub-inspector Ghulam Mohammad and head constable Nazir Ahmad.

Few hours later, suspected militants struck again in Srinagar, this time in Tengpora area where another policeman was killed. The audacious strikes caught the security apparatus on the back foot following which security was stepped up in the city.

Warning of more attacks against security personnel, militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Monday claimed responsibility for the twin attacks on police personnel.

“Besides killing three policemen of Special Operation Group, the militants managed to decamp with a rifle of a slain policeman. The attacks on the security establishments will continue,” he said.

Director General of Jammu and Kashmir police, K Rajendra Kumar said the killings are a "desperate act" by militants to show their presence in Kashmir. "It (killing of policemen) is a desperate act, attacking unarmed is basically a desperate act to show their presence," Kumar said.

The targeted attacks by militants in Srinagar city are the first major strikes carried out after the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party and BJP formed a coalition government in the state last month.

Condemning the attacks, Mehbooba said they will impact the reconciliation process started by the new government and the economic activity that was picking up in the state with the start of tourism season.

"Such attacks are attempts by vested interests to derail the peace and reconciliation process started by the state government in Jammu and Kashmir which will also impact the economy at a time when the tourism activity had started picking up in the state," she said.

"Such incidents and inimical forces will not deter our determination to restore peace and order or sabotage our mission for development and provide succour to the common man. Such incidents will not weaken our resolve," deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh said.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah today said the attacks on policemen in the city was a "worrying" development and the government should move quickly to reassure the residents and tourists."The attacks on policemen in Srinagar is a worrying development. Condolences to the families of those who've died. The govt needs to move quickly to reassure residents of Srinagar and visitors," Omar said in a series of tweets.

After a day of bloodshed in Srinagar, the J&K police Tuesday intensified frisking across Srinagar. Witnesses said teams of police and paramilitary personnel had set up barricades on many roads where the identities of pedestrians were checked and vehicles are frisked.

(Representational image)