Kulgam (J-K): Four militants, two army personnel and a civilian were killed in a fierce gunfight in the wee hours today at a hideout shared by the banned LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen in a village in south Kashmir.
The encounter killing of the four local militants set off a violent protest by the villagers following which the army opened fire causing injuries to 15 civilians, one of whom later died.
Acting on specific technical and human intelligence about the presence of militants, security forces swooped down on their hideout at Nagbal village, 70 km south of Srinagar and engaged them in an encounter, leading to their killing.
The state police had alerted the security forces about the presence of militants at the house of a tailor at the village in Kulgam district, a hotbed of militancy.
The security forces have achieved a "major success", Director General of Police S P Vaid told PTI.
"However, it is unfortunate that two soldiers were martyred and son of the house owner got caught in the crossfire and succumbed to injuries," he said.
Officials present at the scene said a cordon was thrown around the village by Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir police at around 3:30 AM. The contingent moved in to mount the assault after a team of Rashtriya Rifles, a force carved out of the army for counter-insurgency operations, arrived around 4 AM.
Initial search at the residence of the tailor did not yield any results. However, a fresh search was made. This time the son of the house owner was asked to show around the places which the security forces may have missed. The team noticed a false ceiling which, upon being forced opened, prompted firing by the militants.
In the ensuing encounter, two army personnel identified as Lance Naik Raghubeer Singh and Lance Naik Bhandoriya Gopal Sinh as well as son of the tailor were killed.
After a fierce exchange of fire which went on for nearly three hours, four militants identified as Muddasir Ahmed Tantray and Wakeel Ahmed Thokar (Lashkar-e-Taiba) and Farooq Ahmed Bhatt and Mohameed Younis Lone of Hizbul Mujahideen were killed.
While Tantray was an active militant since August 2014, Thokar had joined LeT in September last year. Lone had been recruited in Hizbul Mujahideen only in January this year, while Bhatt was with the outfit since June 2015.
The officials said three militants, believed to have been injured, ran into the adjacent forests. Dreaded Hizbul militant Altaf Kachroo was suspected to be among them. A hunt has been launched to apprehend them.
Four guns have been recovered from the scene.