Bloody Saturday: 7 civilians among 11 killed in encounter in Valley

SRINAGAR: It was a blood-soaked Saturday in Kashmir in which 11 persons, including seven civilians, an Army soldier and three militants, were killed and over three dozen civilian protesters sustained injuries in clashes with the security forces.

The 11 deaths took place in a gunfight and subsequent clashes in Jammu and Kashmir‘s Pulwama district, in one of the bloodiest days in the Valley’s recent history.

The gunfight erupted in Sirnoo village as security personnel surrounded the area after receiving a tip-off that militants were holed up there.

Three militants and a soldier were killed in the gunfight, the police said.

One of the three slain militants, Zahoor Ahmad Thokar, had deserted the Army to join the militant ranks.

Immediately after the gunfight, scores of civilian protesters clashed with the security forces who used firearms and pellets to control the agitating mob.

Two youths identified as Amir Ahmad and Abid Hussain were declared brought dead in a district hospital where they were taken for treatment of gunshot injuries.

Five other civilian protesters — Suhail Ahmad, Shahbaaz, Liyaqat Dar, Tauseef Ahmad and Murtaza Bashir — succumbed to their wounds later, authorities said.

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Reports coming from the area said that more than 35 protesters were injured in the clashes and three of them were critical after receiving gunshot wounds.

Spontaneous protests broke out immediately after the news about the civilian killings spread in the Valley.

Protesters clashed with the security forces in north Kashmir’s Sopore town where the security forces used tear smoke to disperse the protesters.

No injury to any protester or security man was reported during these protests.

Protests also occurred in old city Nowhatta area of Srinagar where protesters shouted anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.

Students of the Kashmir University also carried out peaceful protest in the campus over the civilian killings in Pulwama district.

Markets, public transport and other businesses were shut in south Kashmir, Srinagar and Badgam district and some other places after the tension spilled over to these areas.

Authorities have imposed curfew in Pulwama town and deployed additional security personnel to maintain law and order in the wake of the civilian deaths.

Mobile internet services were suspended in south Kashmir districts and in Srinagar while its speed was brought down throughout the Valley.

Rail services between the Kashmir valley and Bannihal town in the Jammu region were also cancelled.

Political parties in Kashmir condemned the killings slamming Governor Satya Pal Malik‘s administration for its alleged failure to ensure that civilian casualties are avoided during gunfights.