Srinagar: Nine people including six civilians and three militants were killed and several others injured in an encounter with security forces, subsequent clashes and an explosion in Jammu and Kashmir’s southern Kulgam district on Sunday.
The officials said that the security forces shot dead three Jaish-e-Muha-mmad (JeM) militants in an encounter in Kulgam’s Laroo village earlier on Sunday. Protests by locals broke out during the encounter and these only intensified after the word about the killing of militants spread. The security forces fired live ammunition to quell protesters and stone pelting mobs at and around the encounter site, leaving scores injured, the witnesses and hospital sources said.
While the protests were underway an improvised explosive device went off at the encounter site, killing, at least, one person on the spot. Two of the several persons injured in the impact of the blast were declared brought dead at a nearby hospital.
Later during the day, 3 more persons critically injured during the clashes also died in the hospital, raising the toll to nine including seven civilians and three militants. There were reports, unconfirmed by the police that there was another death in the hospital.
The police said that the civilian casualties occur-red in the explosion. A statement issued by it here said, “In Kulgam encounter while three militants of JeM outfit were killed, in the aftermath of the encounter when a large congregation entered the encoun-ter site before it was cleared led to an explosion in which six people died.”
It added, “Moreover, after the conclusion of encounter as the forces moved out, the locals from the area started assembling at the site of encounter and had apparently fiddled with some stray explosive materials leading to an explosion.” It said that five more civilian were injured in the blast.
The police reiterated, “Citizens are requested not to visit any encounter site until the site is sanitised by the bomb disposal team. We seek cooperation of people in this regard for avoiding accidents of such nature.”
But the locals said that, at least, three persons died in security forces’ actions against irate protesters.
The slain militants have been identified by the police as Zubair Ahmed Lone, Shahid Ahmed Tantray and Yazil Ahmed Makroo, residents of Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag districts, respectively. The officials said that the trio belonged to JeM and was involved in a series of terror acts mainly in south Kashmir.
The police said that the security forces had launched a cordon-and-search operation in Laroo village outside Kulgam town after receiving information about the presence of militants in a private house. It added that as the cordon was tightened, the militants holed up in the house opened fire at the security forces, triggering a gunfight in which two soldiers were wounded.
While the encounter was on, irate crowds took to the streets chanting pro-freedom slogans. A group of youth also tried to go near the encounter site and allegedly made attempts to disrupt the operation, the police sources said. The Internet services and rail services through the area were immediately suspended “as a precautionary measure”, the officials said.
The civilians slain in explosion and security forces’ firing are Ubaid Laway, Uzair Ahmad, Mansoor Ahmad, Talib Maqbool, Tajamul Ahmad, Irshad Ahmad.
The witnesses said that the security forces fired live ammunition including pellets and also teargas canisters to quell the protests at and around the encounter site. The officials at Kulgam’s district hospital said that 32 people were injured in the blast and the due to the use of force by the security forces were brought there. Out of these four seriously injured were referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment.
Another eleven injured persons were admitted to the district hospital at neighbouring Anantnag, medical superintendent Dr. Abdul Majeed Mehrab said. He added that three of them who had sustained bullet injuries were shifted to a Srinagar hospital.
Dr. Saleem Tak, the medical superintendent of Srinagar’s government-run Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, said that two of the injured succumbed soon after they were brought there from Kulgam. Earlier Kulgam’s chief medical officer Dr Fazil Kochak said that three civilians injured in the Kulgam incidents were declared dead on arrival at the district hospital. A sixth person died in Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), the officials said.
Advisor to Jammu and Kashmir governor K. Vijay Kumar and J&K’s DGP Dilbag Singh regretted the loss of civilian lives in Kulgam district. “They have expressed profound condolences to the bereaved families. Such sites should be avoided by civilians till they are properly sanitised,” said an official statement.
Meanwhile, militants targeted an Army convoy while passing through the highway town of Awantipore in neighbouring Pulwama district on Sunday afternoon. However, no casualties or damage was reported in the incident, the police said.