Militant violence has been on the rise in the region

militant and a policeman were killed on Friday in a fierce encounter in Sopore town. Militants have stepped up violence in north Kashmir in the past few days.

On Wednesday, two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were shot dead in broad daylight in Pattan chowk.

Official sources said that Friday's encounter took place in the Naseem Bagh area after the Special Operation Group (SOG) and the 22 Rashtriya Rifles laid a siege following intelligence inputs about the presence of militants.

As they zeroed in on the place the militants were hiding at, a heavy exchange of fire took place in which SOG personnel Mohammad Rafiq was killed. The militant was asked to surrender but he instead sprayed a volley of bullets at the forces. The militant was identified as Manzoor Ahmad Khan of Sangrama, Sopore.

Locals said that three houses were damaged at the spot of the encounter, while the house used as the hideout was razed to the ground.

Once known as the capital of militancy, Sopore has again emerged on the map of violence. Police sources say infiltration from across the border has not stopped and that the nearest destination for them is north Kashmir.

In 2009, sources said, nine militants and an equal number of security personnel were killed in the area, but this year the number of militants killed has already crossed 20 and scores of personnel have lost their lives.

The authorities declared Sopore an independent police district this year to tighten the security grid.

Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir Zone, S.M. Sahai, told The Hindu that infiltration was on the rise. “But they [the militants] do not enjoy the upper hand,” he said, adding that more militants were killed in the offensive.

The neighbouring Baramulla remained tense on Friday after scores of youth appeared in the town chanting slogans to protest against the arrest of a stone-thrower.

They hurled bricks and stones at the security forces, who retaliated by firing tear gas canisters and baton-charging the youth. Though this helped restore normality in the area, a majority of the shops remained closed.