Three militants, including top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zahoor Thoker, were killed and a soldier was martyred on Saturday in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district. Immediately after the encounter in Sirnoo village, clashes broke out in the area forcing the securitymen to open fire in which seven civilians were killed.
Two youths, identified as Amir Ahmad and Abid Hussain, sustained gun shot injuries in the clashes. They were declared brought dead in a district hospital, authorities said.
As soon as the news about Thoker being trapped in an encounter spread, people started thronging the encounter site as the army deserter belonged to the same village, police officials said.
Though the encounter ended in 25 minutes with the killing of the three militants, the security forces had a tough time as people started climbing onto Army vehicles, they added.
They said warning shots were fired but that did not deter the mob, forcing the security forces to open fire at the civilians.
Internet services have been suspended in the area, while Banihal-Baramulla rail services have also been stopped as precautionary measures.
Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti condemned death of civilians
Former CMs Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti condemned the loss of civilian lives while blaming Governor Satya Pal Malik for failing to protect people of the Valley.
"The administration of Governor Malik has one task & one task only - to focus on the security of the people of J&K & restore peace to a troubled valley. Sadly it appears that’s the only thing the administration is not doing. Publicity campaigns & full page ads don’t bring peace," Omar Abdullah said in his tweet.
Mehbooba Mufti also condoled the death of civilians and appealed the authorities to stop 'blood bath' in the region.
"How long are we going to shoulder the coffins of our youngsters? So many civilians killed today post encounter in Pulwama. No country can win a war by killing its own people. I strongly condemn these killings, and once again appeal for efforts, to stop this blood bath," Mufti said.
The security forces had launched a cordon and search operation in Sirnoo village in Pulwama district of south Kashmir early morning after receiving specific intelligence input about the presence of militants in the area.
On December 13, two terrorists were killed by security forces during an encounter in Sopore area of Baramulla district. With joint efforts, police, army and CRPF had launched a joint operation a day before.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has violated the ceasefire in Poonch thrice in the past three days. While yesterday, the violation took place in Khari Karmara area, earlier it targeted Kaswa, Kerni and Gulpur.