Three militants killed in two encounters in Kashmir, civilian dies in cross-fire

Three militants killed in two encounters in Kashmir, civilian dies in cross-fire
Three militants were killed by security forces in Kashmir today in two separate encounters, during which a civilian also lost his life after being caught in the cross-fire.

Two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants and two civilians were killed during a nine-hour gunbattle between the ultras and the security forces in Awantipora area of south Kashmir's Pulwama district.

The encounter broke out in Padgampora village after security forces launched a cordon-and-search operation at around 2.30 am following information about presence of militants there, a police official said.

The militants, holed up in two adjacent houses, opened fire at security personnel at around 4.40 am and the troops retaliated, triggering a fierce gunbattle which lasted nine hours.

The security officials had brought the mother of one of the militants to the site to persuade him to surrender but he refused, he said.

The slain ultras were affiliated to LeT outfit and have been identified as Jehangir Ganai and Mohammad Shafi Shergujri, the official said.

A police spokesperson said the slain militants were involved in many incidents of violence, including killing of security and police personnel and political activists, grenade attacks on the forces and police installations in South Kashmir.

"They were also involved in threatening general masses to refrain from forthcoming elections and motivating youth to join militant ranks in the general areas of Awantipora, Pulwama and Shopian.

"They were also involved in recent bank robberies and weapon snatching incidents in South and Central Kashmir," he added.

A 15-year-old civilian -- Amir Nazir Wani -- was also killed after he suffered a bullet wound in the neck during the cross-firing, he said.

While local residents claimed security forces fired at the protesters near the encounter site, leading to Wani's death, police officials said the teenager was fatally injured by a "stray bullet".

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed grief over Amir's death and said it was highly unfortunate that the youth are caught in the vicious cycle of violence.

Another youth Jalaluddin (22) was rushed in an unconscious state from Padgampora to a hospital where he was declared 'brought dead', a police official said.

There were no visible injury marks on his body, the official said, adding the cause of the youth's death is being investigated.

One more youth -- Sajad Ahmad Bhat -- was injured after he was hit by a bullet in the hip. He has been referred to Bone and Joint Hospital here for treatment.

Train services from Banihal to Srinagar were suspended temporarily as authorities apprehended that miscreants might target the trains along the south Kashmir tracks.

In a separate encounter, a militant of Hizbul Mujahideen was killed and two soldiers injured in Bandipora town in north Kashmir.

Security forces had put up a check post near Bandipora police station following information that a militant was going to travel through the area, a police official said.

When the militant came in a cab, he was challenged by security forces but he opened fire, resulting in injuries to two soldiers, police said.

In the retaliatory firing by the security forces, the militant, identified as Mushtaq Ahmad Shergujri, was killed, he added.

A pistol and a hand grenade were recovered from the scene of the shootout, the official said. 

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