One Army jawan and four civilians lost their lives in the crossfire between militants and security forces in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Three militants who were holed up by the security forces managed to escape, a security official told PTI.
The joint team of the Army, police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) called off the operation, which started on the night of 10 April, in the afternoon as people continued to gather at the encounter site.
Videos purportedly showing the crowd helping in the escape of the militants and later cheering them as they were seen fleeing on motorcycles, surfaced on various social networking sites.
The three militants managed to escape after civilian casualties increased.
While briefing the media, senior police officers said that there was specific intelligence about the presence of three local militants owing allegiance to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group at a house in the Khudwani area, following which a security cordon was put in place at 10 pm on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, the gun-battle outside the house where the militants were holed up continued with bullets flying in every direction, the police said.
The house was on the banks of the Jhelum and locals started gathering on the other side of the river, officials said.
The police and the officials said that repeated requests were made to the civilians to clear the area. But the requests remained unheeded.
Kashmiris Blame Security Forces
However, some people in Kulgam alleged that the four were killed when security forces opened fire on a crowd that was proceeding towards the encounter site.
Police officials said that after the civilians were killed in the crossfire, the operation had to be called off, to allow police and CRPF to disperse the mob that had gathered across the river.
It emerged that three militants, including one who was seriously injured, had escaped after the rubble from the house was cleared, officials said.
Police spokesman, however, said there were two militants holed up and later escaped. Police identified the injured militant as Azad Dada, who is wanted in a number of serious cases involving killing of civilians.
There were clashes between protesters and security forces, resulting in injuries to 24 people, they said.
While three people injured were sent home after treatment, 21 were still in the hospital and their condition was stable, officials said.
Several security forces personnel, including the station house officer of Baramulla police station, were injured in stone pelting by the protesters.
Principal opposition party National Conference tweeted that this was a “costly encounter” because of killing of civilians and an Army personnel.
Opposition Hits Out
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who called on Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the morning in New Delhi, flew to Srinagar instead of Jammu to review the law and order situation in the Valley.
CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami said, “Seeing dead bodies of young persons has now become a tragic routine and condemnations and denouncements too had become rituals.
Hurriyat Alliance Kashmir also said that there will be peaceful protests on 13 April and a “Khudwani Chalo” campaign on 14 April to protest against civilian killings.
(With inputs from PTI.)