SRINAGAR: Fresh protests broke out Friday morning in north Kashmir's Bandipora following the killing of two suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba militants in an encounter with government forces.

Reports said two militants and an army soldier were killed in an encounter in Naidkhai village after forces cordoned off a residential house following specific inputs about the presence of militants there.

"When our team cordoned off the house and tried to search it, the two militants opened indiscriminate fire in which an army man was critically injured. The suspects tried to run away but they were killed outside," a senior police officer said.

The operation was carried out by Army's 13 Rashtriya Rifles and J&K Police's SOG. "The Army soldier succumbed to his injuries before medical assistance could be provided to him. The identity of the militants is being ascertained. They are most likely affiliated with Lashkar-i-Toiba," he said.

Soon after the news of the militant killings spread in the area, hundreds of residents came out on the streets and shouted pro-freedom slogans. The protesters were demanding the bodies of militants which have been taken to an undisclosed location.

Meanwhile, police and army Friday arrested a local militant during a search operation in the adjoining Sopore town of north Kashmir. Acting on intelligence inputs about the presence of militants, a search operation was launched in Tujjar Sharief village on Friday morning.

Police said a militant, identified as Abdul Majeed Mir, was apprehended during the operation and arms and ammunition were recovered from his possession. "He had joined Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit a month ago. We are questioning him about his activities," the police officer said.

This is the second such incident in north Kashmir where an active militant has surrendered before the forces, a trend which is being encouraged by the police and civil administration to prevent further escalation of tensions in the besieged population of the Valley.

According to officials, at least 30 local youths have joined militants since Burhan's killing while an equal number are missing who are also believed to have adopted the path of violence. In a recent meeting, Chief MInister Mehbooba Mufti asked the police to encourage youths, who have recently joined militants, to surrender.

There has been a sudden spurt in local youths joining militant groups since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani in an encounter on July 8 in Kokernag village of south Kashmir. According to official data, at least 250-300 militants are presently active in Valley with a majority of them local youths.

Earlier, suspected militants Thursday night attacked a police station in Kupwara district by lobbing a grenade and opening indiscriminate gunfire but, police said, there was no report of any loss of life.

"Our alert policemen thwarted the attempt by retaliating with firing which forced the militants to flee. A case has been registered and investigations are on to nab the attackers," a police officer said.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR: Wreathlaying ceremony for Mohammad Shafi Dar, of Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir who was killed in a gunfight in Baramulla district earlier)