Seven civilians were killed in clashes between security forces and protesters in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday, where earlier three local militants of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and a soldier died in a gunfight.
Reports said that protesting youth tried to march towards the gunfight site in Kharpora Sirnoo in Pulwama, 35 kms from here, as soon as the news of killing of local militants spread in the area. The forces fired live ammunition at the protesters, resulting in seven civilian deaths, reports and eyewitnesses said.
An official at district hospital Pulwama said that over a dozen injured were brought to the facility, out of which seven died. The slain civilians were identified as Shahbaz Ali, Suhail Ahmad, Liyaqat Ahmad, Amir Palla Abid Lone, Murtaza and Touseef Mir.
Reports said over a dozen injured were referred to Srinagar hospitals for specialized treatment. Abid Lone, local media reported was MBA pass out from a university in Indonesia and had married in that country. He had three months old baby and had returned home last year along with his wife from Indonesia to join his family comprising mother, a retired government teacher, and his brother who is presently pursuing MBA degree in Banglore.
Calling the civilian deaths as unfortunate, Police claimed that the “crowd came dangerously close” to the gunfight site, which erupted after a joint team of army's 55 Rashtriya Rifles, J&K police and 182/183 BN CRPF launched a cordon-and-search-operation in Sirnoo area, at around 4 am, following “inputs about the presence” of militants in the area.
“As the joint team of forces approached the suspected spot the hiding militants fired at them, triggering a gunfight. In the initial firing two soldier received bullet injuries,” police said and added the forces blasted the house where the ultras were hiding.
A police spokesperson identified the slain militants as Adnan Bhat, Bilal Magray and Zahoor Thokar, all locals. Thokar was a former army soldier, who deserted his unit to join militant ranks in July. “He (Thokar) was a known militant commander and was wanted by law for his complicity in a series of attacks on security establishments,” he said and added one of the injured soldiers also succumbed while being shifted to hospital.
On October 21, seven civilians were killed in similar circumstances when an explosive shell went off after an encounter between security forces and militants in neighbouring Kulgam district ended in which three ultras of Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit were also shot dead.
Authorities suspended the Internet service in Srinagar and south Kashmir districts of Pulwama and Shopian while the speed was throttled to 2G in rest of the areas. An official said the service was barred in view of protests and shutdown called for three days by the separatists over civilian and militant killings.