Two militants were killed while an Army Major and an officer of Central Reserve Police Force sustained injuries in a gun-battle between militants and government forces in Bamnoo village of South Kashmir's Pulwama district on Monday, officials said. Five persons were hit by bullets after government forces fired upon protesters at the gunfight site where at least 30 other persons also sustained injuries in fierce day-long clashes, they said.
A senior police official said acting on a tip-off, government forces cordoned off Bamnoo on Monday morning and launched searches during which some militants appeared near an orchard and fired upon the search parties. In the initial round of firing, two militants were killed but their associates entered the nearby residential houses and started firing from there, he said.
Though police officials did not reveal the identity of the slain militants, sources said they were Jehangir Ahmad of Chak Keller and Kifayat Ahmad Khanday of Bamnoo. "The bodies could not be retrieved from the encounter site due to heavy exchange of firing," sources said late on Monday evening when the gunfight was still going on.
A sub-inspector of 183 battalion CRPF, Ashok Jakhad, and an Army Major were injured when militants lobbed grenades and tried to break the cordon, officials said.
"Both of them were moved to a hospital where their condition is said to be stable," an official said.
The encounter started at about 7 am and after 15 hours, the firing is still on, locals said.
"Heavy exchange of firing was going on for the whole day and the sounds of blasts rocked the whole area," they said.
"The operation is still on and we cannot say anything at this stage" Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police (south Kashmir), S P Pani told Greater Kashmir on Monday evening.
As the word about the encounter spread, hundreds of youth from different villages of Pulwama and Shopian rushed to Bamnoo and pelted government forces with stones from all sides in a bid to help the militants escape, witnesses said.
The government forces retaliated with teargas, 'Pava' shells, pellets and also fired bullets, triggering massive clashes.
At least 35 persons were injured in the fierce clashes and among them, five were hit by bullets. The injured were immediately rushed to Keller hospital where from four of them were moved to Srinagar directly and one of the injured youths was taken to Pulwama. "He too was referred to Srinagar from Pulwama hospital," locals said.
"We received 13 injured persons till 12 noon. Among them, five had firearm injuries and two had deep pellet wounds. We referred them to Srinagar hospitals," Block Medical Officer Keller, Dr Sonaullah said.
The injured hit by bullets were identified as Jehangir Wagay, 23, son of Abdul Hamid of Abhama; Muhammad Saleem Parray, 23, son of Muhammad Yusuf of Chawan Keller (bullet in abdomen); Tariq Ahmad Mir, 22, son of Muhammad Maqbool of Keller (bullet injury on chest); Altaf Ahmad Gorsi son of Bajeer Gorsi of Zampathri Keller (bullet on leg); Farooq Ahmad Baig son of Abdul Khaliq of Zrakan (bullet on leg).
One of the injured hit by a bullet was taken to hospital by two local video journalists who were covering the encounter, according to reports.
Massive clashes also erupted in Pulwama town where youth took to streets and pelted the forces with stones heavily. The forces in retaliation lobbed tear shells, pellets and fired in the air, triggering more clashes.
Clashes also erupted in Newa, Keller, Ichgoze, Bamnoo, Haal, Belov and all surrounding villages. Normal life remained paralyzed in Pulwama as district observed a spontaneous shutdown after the gunfight started.
Meanwhile, late night reports said militants, believed to be three in number, managed to position themselves in another house after forces blasted the first one in Bamnoo where they were initially trapped.