7 civilians die in explosion, army kills 3 ultras

A cordon and search operation was launched in the Laroo area in south Kashmir this morning following specific information about the presence of militants in the area, a police official said. (DH File Photo)

Seven civilians were killed when an explosive shell went off after an encounter between security forces and militants in south Kashmir’s Kulgam ended on Sunday in which three ultras of Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit were shot dead.
 
Officials and eyewitnesses said dozens of civilians were injured in the blast after a five-hour-long gunfight between militants and security forces ended in Larnoo village of Kulgam district, 70 kms from here. While three among the injured were declared brought dead at district hospital Kulgam, four more injured succumbed at SMHS and SKIMS hospitals in Srinagar, they said. 
 
Reports said protesters clashed with security forces soon after the encounter, leaving many injured. There are conflicting reports if all the civilians were killed in the explosion or some of them died in forces firing during the clashes.
 
However, police said, that soon after troops withdrew from the encounter site, civilians rushed in to douse a fire at a neighbourhood house where an unexploded shell exploded. “Civilians visited the encounter site immediately after operation in spite of request not to visit as thorough search is to be made for explosives once flames douse .They didn’t listen and visited the spot immediately after forces withdrew and some explosive substance went off,” a police spokesman said.
 
Advisor to Jammu and Kashmir Governor K Vijay Kumar and state police chief Dilbag Singh expressed regret over the loss of civilian lives. “They have expressed profound condolences to the bereaved families. Such sites should be avoided by civilians till they are properly sanitised,” an official spokesman said.
 
However, separatists blamed security forces for the civilian killings and called for a shutdown on Monday to protest the deaths. “To strongly condemn &protest the mayhem unleashed in Kulgam by the ruthless Indian state in which so far 5 civilians & 3 armed youth killed besides injuries to tens of scores of injured, JRL calls for complete #Shutdown tomorrow, JRL will hold a #ProtestSitin on Tuesday at LaLchowk (SIC)” tweeted moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar.
 
Earlier the gunfight, which erupted after security forces launched a cordon and search operation (CASO) in Laroo village, 70 kms from here, left three local militants of Jaish outfit dead and two army personnel injured.
 
“As the cordon was tightened, the militants fired at the forces, triggering a gunfight. In the initial firing two soldiers were wounded,” a police officer said, adding that the militants escaped from the house where they were trapped.
 
“However, three militants were trapped by the forces in a paddy field and were neutralised after intense exchange of firing,” the officer said and added the injured soldiers were rushed to a hospital for treatment.
 
Police identified the slain militants as Zubair Lone, Shahid Tantray, Yazil Makro, all locals affiliated with Jaish outfit. Sources said two militants managed to escape from the security cordon.
 
Reports said mobile telephony and Internet services were blocked in Kulgam district while a strict curfew was in place in Kulgam town. Clashes broke out between youths and security forces in the area. “Police had to use some force to quell the protests and around two dozen persons were injured in the clashes,” a police official said.
 
Since last week, security forces have killed 10 militants, including AMU scholar-turned-Hizbul Mujahideen commander Mannan Wani in various encounters.

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7 civilians die in explosion, army kills 3 ultras

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