A daylong fierce encounter in Samba in Jammu and Kashmir ended on Sunday evening, as Indian security forces shot dead two holed-up militants who had killed five people, including a woman and a photo-journalist, turning this town into a scene of battle.
The state police and the Army had jointly launched the operation after the militants killed two villagers and then took shelter in a house with their grenades and AK-47 rifles.
Defence spokesperson Lt Col SD Goswami said the two militants were finally killed by security forces and search operations in the area had also concluded.
According to the police, the militants entered the house of Hoshiar Singh in Kali Mandi in Samba, 45 km from Jammu, and opened fire, killing him and his wife Shashi Bala. Their daughter Bindu and Singh's mother-in-law were injured in the firing.
Police and army units, alerted by villagers, converged on the area and engaged the militants in a gun battle.
A soldier and a photojournalist, Ashok Sodhi, died in the exchange of fire. Two people were reported injured in the militant attack - the first in the Jammu plains since 2002.
The militants, after being chased by security personnel, hid in a nearby house belonging to Suresh Singh. A woman and two children were trapped inside the house. In the afternoon, the militants killed the woman and threw her body out of the house.
With heavy firing between the two sides, the area looked like a battle scene.
A police official earlier said: "The gun battle intensified as militants lobbed grenades and kept firing intermittently. The troops also retaliated."
More Army reinforcements were rushed to the spot, he added.
The injured were taken to the Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu, the official said.
Security forces suspect an infiltration bid made on Thursday, the recovery of a cache of arms and ammunition in the area on Saturday and the attack on Sunday might be an attempt to disrupt the Amarnath Yatra that begins June 18.
A large number of Hindus from across the country participate in the pilgrimage, travelling to Jammu via Samba on their journey to Kashmir to visit the Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath. There have been attempts in the past to target devotees.
"We have inputs of more militants coming from across the border in a bid to escalate violence and disrupt the Amarnath pilgrimage as also the assembly elections scheduled for later this year," said Maj Gen D Choudhary, general officer commanding of 26 Division that is responsible for the army deployment in the border areas.
A police official said: "The militants could not have intruded without the knowledge of Pakistani Rangers."
The Border Security Force (BSF), which guards the 187-km border with Pakistan, had said it had foiled the infiltration bid on Thursday night and that over a dozen militants had retreated to Pakistan after firing 1,000 rounds from their weapons.