Three militants were killed on Sunday, 21 October, in an encounter with security forces in Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, while six civilians lost their lives in a blast following the gunfight there.
The security forces, on Sunday, launched a cordon and search operation in Laroo village after receiving information about the presence of militants in the area.
During the operation, the militants fired upon them, following which an encounter broke out in which three terrorists were killed, PTI reported citing a police official.
The identity and group affiliation of the slain militants is still being ascertained.
Soon after the encounter, a few civilians visited the encounter site, and some explosive substance went off resulting in the death of six civilians and injuring dozen others, reported IANS.
The police claimed that despite repeated requests not to visit the gunfight site in Laroo village till it was declared safe, civilians went to the site where the explosion occurred.
“When forces left after the encounter, there was a congregation which came close to the house and were trying to fiddle with the remnants of explosives. It exploded and six civilians died. We request the citizens not to venture into houses which are not cleared by the security forces.”SP Pani, IG (Kashmir), as quoted by ANI
Clashes also broke out between groups of youth and security forces in the area and are still underway, the police added.
"Police had to use some force to quell the protests and about two dozen persons were injured in the clashes,” an official told PTI.
Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah Express Grief Over Loss of Civilian Lives
Advisor to the Governor, K Vijay Kumar, and DGP Dilbag Singh have expressed regret over the loss of civilian lives at the encounter site and conveyed their profound condolences to the bereaved families.
Former chief ministers of the state, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, also took to Twitter to express grief over the incident.
Separatists Call for Strike on Monday
Meanwhile, the separatists in the Kashmir Valley have called for a strike on Monday, 22 October, over the death of civilians..
The strike has been called by separatists Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL).
“To strongly condemn and protest the mayhem unleashed in Kulgam by the ruthless Indian state in which so far 5 civilians and 3 armed youth were killed, besides injuries to tens of scores of injured, JRL calls for complete shutdown tomorrow, JRL will hold a protest sit-in on Tuesday at LaL Chowk,” Farooq posted on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and a Kashmiri Pandit organisation have extended their support to the strike called by the separatists.
"In an emergency meeting held Sunday, the executive committee of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed its shock and concern at the sharp increase in the use of brutal force against the unarmed civilians of Kashmir," a statement by the KCCI said, PTI reported.
Condemning the incident, the KCCI said the business community of Kashmir once again urges the government to "restrain from launching operations in civilian areas which invariably trigger more killings and worsening of the law and order situation".
The seemingly endless loss of innocent Kashmiri lives is a matter of pain and anguish for all of us. The KCCI offers its deepest condolences to the families of innocent unarmed civilians and requests the business community to observe a complete shutdown on Monday, as a mark of protest against the brutalisation of our population.The KCCI said in a statement, PTI reported
The Kashmiri Pandit Sangarash Samiti (KPSS) also extended its support to the strike called by the separatists, saying it is mandatory for security forces to sanitise the area where encounter takes place, to safeguard the lives of the civilians.
"We feel the pain of killing of civilians and injuries during cordon and search operation in Kulgam," KPSS president Sanjay Tickoo said in a statement, PTI reported.
(With inputs from ANI, PTI and IANS)