Cop killed as militants escape cordon in Kashmir

Cop killed as militants escape cordon in Kashmir

Srinagar: A policeman was killed and an army personnel injured after an exchange of heavy fire with militants in Hajin area of north Kashmir's Bandipora district on Sunday.

The militants managed to escape from the encounter site taking advantage of stone pelting in the area.

Sources said security forces had laid siege around Mir Mohalla of Hajin area and launched a search operation after inputs about the presence of two to three Lashkar-e-Toiba militants.

"As searches were on, militants present in the area opened fire on the search party and tried to break the cordon. One policeman, constable Zaheer Abbas, was killed in the initial exchange of fire," they said and added an army personnel was also injured.

Soon after the firing stopped, locals took to streets and clashed with security forces to help the militants escape, reports said.

Three civilians were injured after security forces fired pellets at the protesters near the encounter site.

Sources said that search operation had been expanded to nearby areas to track down the militants.

Stone pelting protests at the encounter sites had emerged as a major problem for security forces in Kashmir since late 2016.

In February, army chief Gen Bipin Rawat warned that the civilian protesters obstructing encounters would be treated as "overground workers of terrorists" and dealt with "harshly."

However, despite warnings and new strategies, security forces faced stiff resistance from local population during encounters with militants across Kashmir till July.

More than 20 civilian protesters died in security forces action on stone pelters near encounter sites this year.

"The protesters hamper our efforts by shouting slogans and throwing stones. This poses a great risk to locals who put their lives on the line," said a police officer who has been part of counter-insurgency operations in the state.

"Later it results in killings. The trend is going down in south Kashmir in the last few months. But in some pockets of the north, it is picking up which is a worrying trend," the officer added.

DH News Service

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