Three civilians were killed and 17 others were injured on Tuesday as troops fought militants in Central Jammu and Kashmir. Clashes erupted between stone-pelting protestors and security forces after they began to hinder their operation against militants in Chadoora region’s Durbugh locality, Budgam district. The encounter began at dawn after forces received inputs that militants were in the area, PTI reported.

The search operation turned into a gunfight after the militants opened fire on security forces, a police officer said, adding that protesters began to hurl stones at them while they were battling the militants.

One civilian suffered bullet injuries to his neck and died en route to a hospital in Srinagar, while two others were reported dead later, the policeman said. As security forces fired pellets using pump action guns and lobbed teargas shells to disperse the protesters, 17 others sustained injuries. Medical Superintendent of Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital Nazir Choudhary told Hindustan Times that the man who was hit by a bullet in the neck was in his 20s.

A number of such civilian deaths have been reported from encounter sites in the recent past. Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had warned civilians of “tough action” if they tried to hinder security forces from fighting militants.