SRINAGAR: Violent clashes broke out near the site of an encounter in north Kashmir's Bandipora district where three Army soldiers and a militant were killed on Tuesday morning while at least 14 persons suffered injuries.

Shouting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, hundreds of protesters gathered near the site of encounter in Hajin village who later clashed with the security forces while demanding the body of the militant. A civilian was also injured during the encounter, officials said.

Witnesses said forces used teargas and pellets to disperse the protesters who had poured in from adjoining localities and were trying to disrupt the search operation going on in the area.

"Five protesters were injured in clashes of which one youth suffered pellet injuries and he has been referred to Srinagar," sources said.

A senior police officer said a joint team of the Army's 13 RR and J&K Police's SOG laid a siege around Parray Mohalla of Hajin on Tuesday morning following inputs about the presence of heavily armed militants there and started a search operation.

"When the team zeroed in on a house, the hiding militants opened fire and hurled a grenade during which some forces personnel suffered injuries. They were airlifted to Srinagar where three Army soldiers succumbed," the officer said, adding that a militant was also killed.

Officials said the condition of some of the injured which include a CRPF commanding officer, one Army major and at least seven personnel, is critical. They are undergoing treatment at the Army's 92 base hospital.

According to reports, the encounter has been called off after the security forces battled protesters on one side who tried to divert their attention and help the trapped militants in escaping, a trend which has gained momentum in Kashmir recently.

The identity of the slain militant, believed to be foreigner, or the soldiers, has not been confirmed so far. The injured civilian has been identified as Hilal Ahmad Parrey. He has reportedly suffered a bullet injury in his thigh but his condition is stable.

The encounter comes two days after two civilians, two army soldiers and four militants were killed in a fierce gun battle in south Kashmir's Kulgam which sparked anger in the Valley with the opposition demanding inquiry into civilian killings.

While one of the civilian was killed when forces fired at protesters in Frisal village near the site of encounter, the family of another, son of the house owner where the militants were hiding, have accused the forces of killing him in custody.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)