Thousands of protesters clashed with police on Thursday after two militants were killed in a gun battle with security forces in South Kashmir’s Shopian district.
According to eye witnesses, the protesters torched a police armoured vehicle as masked militants fired automatic rifles into the air in honour of the dead men.
The two militants were members of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest local rebel group operating in Jammu and Kashmir.
The gun battle broke out early on Thursday morning when militants fired on security personnel who had cordoned off a village.
“Acting on a specific information about the presence of militants in Vehil village, Shopian Police, 62-RR and 14 BN CRPF cordoned off the area and launched the search operation. During the search the hiding militants opened fire which was retaliated, triggering an encounter,” said a Srinagar based police spokesman.
The two militants were identified as Anam-ul-Haq Malla, a district commander of Hizbul and a resident of Pahlipora Trenz, Shopian and Naseer Ahmad Pandith from Karimabad, Pulwama who was active in the organisation since 2015 after deserting from the Police department along with service weapons. Pandith was a security guard at the residence of a former minister in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s cabinet.
Two AK-47 rifles, 183 rounds, six magazines, 2 grenades, 2 LTPE, 2 electric detonator, 1 wire cutter and cash Rs. 6,500 were recovered from the encounter site.
After the shootout, thousands of angry villagers came out onto the streets, throwing stones at police and chanting slogans in support of the rebels.
Police fired tear gas at the protesters but later withdrew to avoid an escalation.
Clashes between civilians and security forces after death of militants or during ongoing encounters have been on a rise for some time in the Valley.
Local police and the army have issued public warnings asking residents within a two-kilometre radius of a gun battle to stay indoors, but the request is usually ignored.
(With inputs from Reuters)