At least 8 civilians were killed and over 35 injured in South Kashmir’s Pulwama on Saturday when security forces opened fire to disperse a violent mob that was indulging in pelting stones at them following killing of three Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) terrorists in a pre-dawn encounter.

A soldier of the Army’s Rashtriya Rifles (RR), identified as Kishan Singh, was martyred and another injured during the encounter. Kishan was resident of Bhinchri village in Churu district of Rajasthan.

The encounter broke out in the Sirnoo village where the terrorists were hiding in an orchard.

Hundreds of youth from the nearby villages gathered at the encounter spot and tried to disrupt the operation by indulging in heavy stone-pelting. The security forces reportedly fired some warning shots and burst teargas shells to disperse the unruly mob but opened fire when the mob menacingly advanced towards the joint team of the Army, CRPF and J-K Police.

Two youth among the mob were killed on the spot and others succumbed in the hospital where they were rushed for treatment.

Authorities clamped curfew in the area but that failed to deter the miscreants from coming out on the streets. Reports of violence from North Kashmir’s Sopore town have also been received.

The incident has created tension in the valley drawing sharp political reactions with former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti blaming the Governor’s administration for killing of the civilians.

Reports said that among the killed civilian was Abid Hussain, who had recently returned after completing his MBA from Indonesia. He had married an Indonesian woman and had a 3-month-old child.

All the three terrorists were locals and one among them was an Army deserter Zahoor Thokar who had in last July decamped with a service rifle from the 173 battalion of the Territorial Army and joined terrorist ranks. He was involved in killing of a soldier, Aurengzeb, after kidnapping him near Shopian while he was going home on leave to celebrate Eid.

Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia confirmed that three terrorists were killed in a brief exchange of firing with security forces. Identity of the slain terrorists was being ascertained.

The slain civilians have been identified as, Amir Ahmad Paul, Shahid Ahmad Khanday, Abid Hussian lone, Ishfaq Ahmad, Shahbaz Ali, Liyaqat Ahmad and Tawseef Ahmad. Official confirmation of the killings is awaited.

Separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq called for three days of mourning and complete shutdown in protest of the incident.

The separatists have also decided to march towards Srinagar’s Badami Bagh Cantonment of the Army on Monday to protest against these killings.

Train and internet services have been suspended in the valley.

In a series of tweets, National Conference leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah slammed Governor Satya Pal Malik for failing to the “one task” he is expected to do.

“The administration of Governor Malik has one task & one task only – to focus on the security of the people of J&K & restore peace to a troubled valley. Sadly it appears that’s the only thing the administration is not doing. Publicity campaigns & full page ads don’t bring peace,” he wrote.

 

“Another blood soaked weekend in Kashmir. 6 protestors killed, 1 solider killed in the line of duty. Together with the 3 militants from this morning’s encounter that’s 10 dead. Reports of many injured at the encounter site. What a horrible day!” he had said in a previous tweet in the morning.

PDP leader and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “How long are we going to shoulder the coffins of our youngsters? So many civilians killed today post encounter in Pulwama. No country can win a war by killing its own people. I strongly condemn these killings, and once again appeal for efforts, to stop this blood bath”.

 

Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone tweeted, “Extremely disturbing news coming from Pulwama. The administration needs to seriously evaluate the costs of its operations. If there is even a remote chance of civilians getting killed during military operations it is better to call off such operations”.

No official version of today’s incident has so far come.