Three militants and a police constable died in an encounter in Pulwama district on Monday when the Kashmir valley protested the deaths of two civilians in the security forces’ firing on Sunday.

“This group of militants was involved in an attack on the Army in which four soldiers and one militant had died at Buchhoo on May 24. In a major setback to Hizbul Mujahideen, we have successfully wiped out the group, killing all three militants. They have been identified as Shabir Ahmad Bhat of Hayina, Aijaz Ahmad Bhat of Luraw Jagir and Shahnawaz Ahmad Mir of Dadsara. Saifullah Ahangar had died but Shahnawaz and another militant, Adil, had escaped. Today, we have eliminated Shahnawaz,” said Vijay Kumar, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), South Kashmir.

The police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) approached a militant hideout after learning about the presence of three militants at Mandora, Tral, 45 Km from Srinagar, said Mr. Kumar who supervised the operation along with Brig Deepak Banerjee.

He revealed that the police had received a tip-off which said that two or three militants of Hizbul Mujahideen had gone to see their ailing commander Shabir Ahmad Bhat alias Shabir Hayina at the house of Gulzar Ahmad.

Shabir Hayina was the outfit’s top commander in South Kashmir.

While the police and CRPF were laying siege to a cluster of houses, militants opened fire in an unsuccessful attempt to escape. Constable Mushtaq Ahmad died and three others sustained injuries.

Reinforcement from Rashtriya Rifles 42 battalion joined the operation and the battle continued for six hours.

Bodies of the three militants with three AK-47 rifles have been seized.

Shutdown in valley

On the call given by a number of separatist leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Kashmir valley observed shutdown on Monday to protest the death of the two youths killed in Army firing at Markundal in North Kashmir on Sunday. Reports said that most of the shops and business establishments remained closed even as the call had only a partial impact in several areas. Commercial transport was off the road and a small number of private and government vehicles were operational.

Educational institutions remained closed and attendance was thin in the government offices and banks. Clashes between angry protestors and the police were reported from six places, including Palhalan. About a dozen persons have sustained minor injuries.

Army school set ablaze

An irate mob set the Army’s Goodwill School on fire at Hajan, once the capital of counter-insurgency in Kashmir. Officials said that hundreds of residents attacked the school while shouting slogans against security forces. Defence spokesman Naresh Vig said that the school building suffered extensive damage.