Valley on the edge

Seven civilians were killed and many more injured when security forces opened fire on residents trying to disrupt a joint operation launched by the army and the police in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district in which three militants and a soldier died.

The killing of civilians in the village of Sirnoo triggered several protests in Pulwama , where people blocked roads at several places. The Internet was suspended in Central and South Kashmir amid concerns that protests could spill into other areas.

The slain militants included Zahoor Ahmed Thokar, a former soldier who later joined the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Residents of Sirnoo said the army and the Special Operation Group of Jammu and Kashmir police launched an operation against suspected militants on Saturday morning in the village, around two kilometres from Pulwama town, and killed three militants in a gunfight. One soldier was also killed in the operation and another injured.

The militants were holed up inside an orchard when the security forces launched the operation. As the operation was underway, locals headed towards the site of the shootout and threw stones on the security personnel. Army soldiers and the police retaliated with gunfire, killing one civilian on the spot.

Chief medical officer, Pulwama, Abdul Rashid Para said 32 people with injuries were brought to hospital. “Six succumbed to their injuries in hospital and 14 were referred to Srinagar,” he said. Locals blamed the army and the police for what a survivor described as avoidable gunfire.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik ordered a probe into the deaths of the civilians. He appealed to people to stay away from encounter sites while directing divisional commissioner, Kashmir, to inquire into Saturday’s incident, an official spokesperson said. A police spokesman said the operation was launched on the basis of credible information that some militants were hiding in the orchard in Sirnoo. The militants in hiding opened fire on the security force engaged in the operation, triggering the shootout, the spokesman said.

Bodies of all the civilians were handed over to their families and buried in their villages amid protests. 

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