A civilian was killed by a stray bullet as a gun battle raged on in Arwani area of south Kashmir on Thursday, police said, even as there was no official confirmation about the number of militants holed up or killed at the encounter site.
Intense gunbattle broke out between the militants and security forces in Anantnag district since Thursday morning, after a search operation was conducted in the area on Wednesday night.
Speaking to HT, DGP, coordination and law and order and , SP Vaid said, “The encounter is still on. Till a search is not conducted, nothing can be said. It is suspected that two or three militants are holed up there.”
He added, “A stray bullet hit the civilian. We found his body on the railway tracks near the encounter site,” he said.
A police statement identified the dead man as Arif Ahmad Shah, a resident of Sangam.
“The person succumbed to injuries after being hit by a stray bullet. Police has appealed to the people not to assemble or come close to the encounter site as there is every chance that stray bullets may hit them and they may get injured,” the statement said.
Since morning there were conflicting reports about the militant casualty in the encounter, with several reports saying three militants of the banned outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba were killed, although neither the army nor the police confirmed the same.
But even as police and army did not confirm the killings, chief of the umbrella militant organisation United Jihad Council Syed Salahuddin paid his “tributes to the three slain militants Majeed Zargar, Muhammad Waseem and Rahil Amin saying the young boys laid their lives for the freedom struggle of Kashmir”.
In an emailed statement to local news agency KNS, he termed “the killings as a jolt to the militancy in Kashmir” but said “there are thousands others ready to fight”.