Two militants and a 15-year-old civilian have been killed on Thursday in an encounter between security forces and militants in Padgampora of Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir.
An Army official based in Srinagar said the encounter has ended with the killing of two militants, and that two weapons were recovered.
Scores of people were present when the body of the civilian, identified as Amir Nazir, was handed over to his family in his native village, Begambagh, Kakpora, a few kilometers from the encounter site. Eyewitnesses said he had a bullet injury in his neck.
Jammu and Kashmir police chief S P Vaid said the boy was hit by a stray bullet “after he managed to sneak near the encounter site’’.
”He somehow managed to reach close to the encounter site and was hit by a stray bullet, most probably from the militant side,’’ Vaid said.
This is the first civilian casualty since Army chief General Bipin Rawat warned civilians to stay away from encounter sites, saying those involved in stone-pelting on forces during gun battles with militants will not be dealt differently.
”We have requested people many times not to come near encounter sites but they don’t need to our warnings,’’ Vaid said.
Villagers attending the funeral, however, said the troops fired live ammunition, tear gas and shotgun pellets at the protesters, killing the 15-year-old and wounding three others.
Vaid said villagers had tried to march to the area and attacked security forces with stones. He, however, refuted the allegation that security forces aimed at the protesters.
Lately, local people in the Valley have been seen gathering near encounter sites in protest and throwing stones at security forces, apparently to help the militants escape.
Meanwhile, moderate separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has related the death of the teenager to army chief’s warning. “As we mourn another child Amir Nazir send to the grave by Killer forces,Indian Army chiefs warning resonates in our mind As it gets put into action,’’ Farooq tweeted.
Troops from 55 Rashtriya Rifles and Special Operation Group (SOG) of Awantipora Police were engaged in the encounter to flush out the militants trapped inside a house.
The militants, who are locals from nearby Queil area in Pulwama, are reportedly associated with the banned Pakistani militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba.
According to sources, the slain militants have been identified as Jehangir Ganai and Shafi Sher Jugri.
While Ganai was reportedly killed in the beginning of the encounter, security forces had called Jugri’s wife to the encounter site to get him to surrender, but failed to do so.
This is the second major encounter in Kashmir in the last four days. On Sunday, two militants and a policeman were killed in south Kashmir’s Tral in a gunfight that began Saturday evening and lasted till Sunday afternoon.
The policeman, who lost his life, was identified as Manzoor Ahmed Naik, a native of Salamabad area of Uri.