Four civilians have died in clashes that broke out on Wednesday near the site of a gunfight between security forces and suspected militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district, Global News Service reported. An Indian Army soldier died and two security forces personnel were injured in the encounter, which is still under way.
The gunfight started late Tuesday in Khudwani area of Kulgam district after security forces launched a cordon-and-search operation. Two Lashkar-e-Taiba militants are said to be trapped inside a house, Greater Kashmir reported.
Meanwhile, several locals started throwing stones at security personnel, which led to clashes, the Global News Service reported. Two of the four civilians who were killed were teenagers. They were identified as 16-year-old Bilal Ahmad Tantray of Qoimoh, Sharjeel Ahmad Sheikh of Khudwani, Aijaz Ahmad Palla of Batpora and 15-year-old Faisal Ahmad Illahi.
Over 40 civilians were injured in the clashes, many reportedly by pump action guns and teargas shells. Schools in the region have been closed and internet services were suspended. Authorities asked internet service providers to bring speeds down in Srinagar as well, according to GNS.
Sheikh was reportedly killed in the crossfire, while investigations are underway to ascertain how the others died, an unidentified police officer said.
A joint team of the Army, the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Special Operations Group and the Central Reserve Police Force – which deployed six additional companies – is battling the suspected militants.
The police were reportedly conducting a search operation in Wani Mohalla of Khudwani when the suspected militants fired at them, IANS reported.
The situation in the state has been tense since April 1 when gun battles between militants and security forces in South Kashmir’s Shopian and Anantnag districts left 13 militants, three Army personnel and four civilians dead. Two days later, a young man injured by security forces during clashes in Central Kashmir succumbed to his injuries. The number of casualties in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018 is 138, which means, on an average, at least one person has died every day.