SRINAGAR: Intense protests have broken out in parts of south Kashmir following reports of the killing of two militants in an encounter with government forces in Arwani village.

Officials and witnesses said severe clashes broke out in Arwani last night when government forces laid cordon around Hussanpora locality where a group of militants were reportedly meeting at a local's house.

Although there are reports of Lashkar-e-Toiba's Kashmir chief, Abu Dujana, being part of the group, no official confirmed it. Sources said Dujana might have been part of the group but that he might have escaped under the cover of darkness during the night.

At the crack of dawn on Thursday, officials said, the team of J&K Police's Special Operations Group and the Army's Rashtriya Rifles, resumed the operation during which a heavy exchange of gunfire took place. Locals reported hearing loud bangs near the site of the encounter.

"Hundreds of people from adjoining villages marched towards the site of encounter and tried to help the militants escape from the area. They diverted the attention of forces by throwing stones at them. Clashes are going on in the area," a local told The Citizen, wishing anonymity.

According to reports, clashes have broken out in parts of twin districts of Anantnag and Kulgam, including Bijbehara, Qazigund, Sangam and Khudwani, where locals are staging protests following reports that two militants have been killed in the encounter.

However, officials didn't confirm any kills so far.

Fearing escalation in violence, authorities have snapped mobile telephone services of all companies, except the state owned BSNL, and heavy deployment of security forces has been made in Kulgam and Anantnag, which were the epicentre of the prevailing crisis in Kashmir, to prevent any law and order problems.

A senior police officer said the site of the encounter has been cordoned off and the exchange of fire between militants and forces is going on. "There are two to four militants trapped in the house and the operation is still underway," the officer said.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR after attack on Nagrota army camp)