Three soldiers of the Army, seven civilians, and five terrorists (two of them Pakistanis) were killed on Sunday in two separate encounters in Jammu and Kashmir.
The civilians were killed when a live shell exploded at the encounter spot in Laroo area of Kulgam in South Kashmir where they went in spite of police warnings following the killing of three terrorists by security forces.
Three soldiers were martyred and two heavily armed Pakistani terrorists killed in a separate encounter just near the Line of Control (LoC) at Sunderbani in the Rajouri district of Jammu.
Army spokesman, Lt Colonel Devender Anand said that one soldier who was critically injured during the encounter with the infiltrators has been airlifted to the military command hospital at Udhampur for treatment.
All three soldiers martyred in the encounter with Pakistani terrorists in the Sunderbani area of Jammu division on Sunday belonged to Jammu and Kashmir, said a spokesman of the Army.
They were from the 8 JAK LI.
They have been identified as Havaldar Kaushal Kumar of Nowshera, Lance Naik Ranjeet Singh of Doda, and Rifleman Rajat Kumar Basan of Pallanwala. The injured soldier, Rifleman Rakesh Kumar, belongs to Samba near Jammu.
Giving details of the encounter, he said that at about 1.45 pm the Indian Army patrol killed two terrorists near the LoC and thereafter the troops cordoned off the area and search operation has been launched. Warlike stores, including two AK-47 rifles, have been recovered.
Among the seven civilians killed at Laroo was a 10-year-old boy. Two soldiers of the Army were injured in the encounter.
About 40 stone-pelters were also injured in clashes with the security forces following the killing of the terrorists.
Reports said that the civilians died due to an explosion of a shell that was lying at the encounter site. These civilians rushed to the encounter spot even before the security forces had scanned the area and cleared it of explosives. Four of the injured succumbed at the hospital where they were rushed for treatment. The house in which the terrorists were hiding was destroyed due to fire.
The encounter began early in the morning when a joint team of Army, CRPF, and J&K Police cordoned off the area after receiving credible inputs about the presence of terrorists in the area.
The incident comes two days after the killing of five terrorists, three of them Pakistanis, in the Valley.
Clashes erupted as a large number of people gathered around the encounter spot and started pelting stones at the security forces in a bid to divert their attention and enable the terrorists to escape from there. Police burst teargas shells to disperse the miscreants.
The killed civilians have been identified as Masroor Ahmad (10-year-old boy), Ubaid Laway, Irshad Ahmad, Tajamul Ahmad, Auqib Ahmad Sheikh, and Saqib Maqbool.
The killed terrorists have been identified as Shahid-ul-Islam, Yazil Makroo, and Zubair Lone.
A police spokesman said that the civilians ignored the advice of the security forces and rushed towards the encounter spot even though they were warned that the place has explosives that have to be removed after the flames were doused. But they ignored the warnings and just as few of them reached the spot after the security forces withdrew, some explosive substance went off injuring these people.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has called for a shutdown in the valley on Monday to protest against the incident.
Soon after the encounter, terrorists opened fire at a patrol party of the 55 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) near Malangpura in the Pulwama district of South Kashmir. This resulted in an encounter and further details were awaited.
CPI(M) MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, who represents Kulgam in the state assembly, while expressing solidarity with the bereaved families, demanded an immediate end to the civilian killings in the Valley and magisterial enquiry into Sunday’s “unfortunate and painful” incident.
Reacting to the death of civilians, former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted; “Terrible news coming out of Kulgam. May the deceased find place in Jannat. Alienating the people in the fight against militancy is a sure fire recipe for losing the fight. How long can we go on ignoring the ground realities & living in denial about how bad things are in Kashmir?”
Meanwhile, the Governor’s advisor K Vijay Kumar, and DGP Dilbag Singh have regretted the loss of civilian lives due to the explosion. Visiting such places should be avoided till the area was properly sanitised, they said.