Srinagar: A civilian was killed in one of the clashes that erupted between protesters and security forces in parts of Kashmir on Thursday following the death of three militants in a shootout in the south of the valley that was limping to normalcy after months of a bloody unrest since July.
The state police said Arif Amin Shah of Sangam village in south Kashmir was killed after a mob threw stones at security forces in a neighbourhood, some distance away from a village where three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants were killed in a six-hour gunfight. An officer said that the slain militants were all Kashmiris and apparently belonged to southern Kashmir where widespread clashes erupted between security forces and civilians after news spread about the militants’ deaths.
Some villagers tried to march towards the shootout site in Arwani village, some 40 km from here, in Kulgam district. They threw stones at police contingents and paramilitary troopers.
The police said Shah was hit by a stray bullet but residents alleged he was killed in firing by the security forces. At least a dozen civilians were also injured. One of them was critical, the locals said.
Clashes also erupted at a dozen places in Anantnag and Kulgam, the worst hit south Kashmir districts in the unrest triggered by the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
In the wake of the unrest since then, some 100 persons died in the months of daily protests and shutdown, which was spearheaded by separatist leaders.
The situation in the valley had just started easing. Separatists on Wednesday relaxed for three days – Saturday, Sunday and Monday, their weekly protest calendar.
But the protests in south Kashmir on Thursday brought back the memories of the violent days after Wani’s killing.
Mobile phone and internet services were suspended in parts of south Kashmir to prevent rumours and leaking of details of the counter-insurgency operation through social media. Although authorities did not formally confirm that the mobile phone operations were suspended, sources said the action had been taken to check spread of rumours in the area.
LeT commander Abu Dujana, one of the most wanted militants in the state, was earlier rumoured to be among the gunmen holed up in the house that was targeted by the security forces. Locals said he escaped from the hideout in Arwani village which lies close to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s ancestral Bijbehara town.
But security officials neither confirmed nor denied if he was among the militants who were trapped on Wednesday night. The police said security forces surrounded the village following a tip-off.
“As security forces tightened the cordon, some gunshots were heard. But after that there was no exchange of fire,” an officer said.