Two Army and Police personnel, as also at least one militant, died and three personnel sustained injuries in the overnight encounter at Zunarishi hamlet of Kupwara district in northern Kashmir on Tuesday.

Authoritative sources told The Hindu that the joint operation of the Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police, that was launcher over a specific information late on Monday night at Zunarishi on Kupwara-Chowkibal Road, was coming to its end in the afternoon with the minimum of three fatal casualties.

Those killed in the fierce gunbattle include Naib Subedar Kankanwadi of 19 Maratha Light Infantry and Assistant Sub Inspector Riyaz Ahmed of Special Operations Group of the Handwara District Police. One unidentified militant also died but his body could not be recovered immediately.

Some of the officials associated with the operation claimed that the bodies of two militants were "visible" near the hideout which would be brought down with improvised explosive devices anytime. They said that one or two militants could be still alive and fighting the troops from the hideout.

Two Policemen and one non-commissioned officer of Army, Lance Naik Maruti Shouri, sustained injuries. They were evacuated and rushed to 168 Military Hospital at Drugmulla.

Anantnag cop critical

Meanwhile DIG South Kashmir Vijay Kumar said that selection grade constable Shabir Ahmad, who was critically injured when militants fired on him pistol shots in point blank range at Rahat Dedi Masjid near Lalchowk of Anantnag township on Tuesday, was battling for life at a hospital in Srinagar. He said that the militants snatched away the injured constable's AK rifle and escaped.

2 cops held hostage

Sources associated with the operation told The Hindu that the two missing Policemen were captured and taken hostage by the holed up militants, whose number was being ascertained, immediately after a Police officer established contact with one of them by cellphone at 1300 hours. Senior Army and Police officers have rushed to the spot and the logistics for the further strategy were being reviewed. Three ambulances, a team of doctors and two Army helicopters were also associated with the operation.