Kashmir valley was tense as the bodies of three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants killed in an encounter with security forces were recovered from Arwani area of Bijbehara on Saturday.
LeT district commander Junaid Matoo, who became notorious after attacking a police van and killing three policemen last year, was among those killed. Acting on a tip-off, police and CRPF personnel had launched an operation to flush out militants from Makro Mohalla on Friday morning.
A shootout followed, and several civilians were caught in the crossfire. Although they were rushed to the hospital, two succumbed to their injuries. The deceased were identified as Ehsan Ahmad, a teenager from Shamsipora village in Kulgam district, and 22-year-old Muhammad Ashraf.
Confirming the two deaths, DGP SP Vaid said: "Security forces have no choice but to retaliate when militants fire at them. Whosoever comes near the encounter site can be hit by bullets."
Police also confirmed that the three Lashkar militants, including Matoo, were killed in the operation.
Matoo was involved in a number of anti-establishment activities in the Valley, including the killing of a police constable at Bogund in Kulgam district on June 15. He had also masterminded an attack on a party of security personnel at Mirbazar, which culminated in the death of police officer Mehmood.
In an apparent retaliation to the Arwani encounter, as many as 12 militants ambushed a police party on the outskirts of Anantnag district later on Friday ? killing six policemen. The victims were travelling in a police jeep on the Anantnag-Achabal road when the incident occurred. Police have identified LeT district commander (Anantnag) Bashir Ahmad Wani as the brains behind the attack.
Meanwhile, authorities imposed restrictions in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir as separatists called for a shutdown on Saturday. Srinagar district magistrate Farooq Ahmad Lone said curfew was clamped in Rainawari, Khanyar, Nowhatta, MR Gunj and Safa Kadal areas to maintain law and order.
While trains running between Baramulla and Bannihal towns were halted, the Kashmir University postponed its examinations scheduled for Saturday. Commercial activities and public transport services were also suspended.
A clampdown on mobile Internet services is already in effect across the Valley, and cellphone services have been altogether scrapped in certain areas of South Kashmir.