SRINAGAR: As many as seven civilians were killed as an explosive went off when they were reportedly poking into the debris of a building that was damaged in an encounter with Jaish-e-Mohammad militants in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Sunday. The blast happened after security forces had liquidated three Jaish men there.
With over 40 other locals injured, some of them severely, it was the highest civilian casualty in any anti-militancy operation by security forces in Kashmir so far.
Elsewhere in the state, three soldiers were killed and another Army man critically injured in a possible attack by Pakistan army’s Border Action Team (BAT) close to the Line of Control in the border district of Rajouri. The Army gunned down two militants in retaliatory fire, taking the day’s militancy-related toll in the state to 15.
In the Laroo area of Kulgam, it all began when the Army, CRPF and police conducted search operations to nab militants holed up there, in the wee hours of the day. “Militants opened fire, and in the ensuing five-hour gunfight, three local Jaish militants were killed,” a police official said. The building the militants were attacking from was completely damaged.
Two army men were also injured in the gunfight and evacuated to the Army hospital in Srinagar.
After the encounter, youth took to roads and clashed with security personnel while people in large numbers converged at the encounter site despite warnings from security forces.
As people were assessing the damage and dousing fire in the damaged house, a powerful explosion took place killing three civilians on the spot and injuring scores of locals. While people in critical condition were evacuated to Srinagar hospitals for specialised treatment, four of them later succumbed to their injuries.
Kulgam Deputy Commissioner Shamim Ahmad Wani said six of the dead civilians had been identified. Locals blamed the security personnel for the civilian deaths. “Before leaving the encounter site, they did not defuse the explosive device,” they argued.
In the Rajouri encounter, army men intercepted militants trying to sneak into the state. After an exchange of fire, they cordoned off the area and launched search and destroy operation. A fierce gunbattle ensued, and three soldiers and two militants were killed.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik strongly condemned the civilian killings and called for a shutdown. They would hold a sit-in protest at Lal Chowk on Tuesday.